Many people understand the tooth decay prevention qualities of fluoride, a natural mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and helps prevent tooth decay. Well, there is a lesser known all-natural substance that will also help prevent tooth decay – xylitol.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most fibrous fruits and vegetables. Initially extracted from the Birch tree in the 19th century, today it is often obtained from corn sources. It is also naturally produced in our own bodies in small levels. In fact an average sized adult can produce up to 15 grams a day with normal metabolism. Xylitol is widely used as a sugar (sucrose) substitute in products such as gums and candies as well as used as a baking substitute for sucrose.
The medical community has recently discovered its prevention of middle ear infections as well as a great sugar-substitute for diabetic patients. Recently, xylitol has been used to help clear out nasal passages as well. Xylitol also has lower caloric content than sucrose. Xylitol has a low glycemic index of only 7 as compared to sucrose’s level of 83. But, the dental community is excited about its tooth decay prevention properties; it has been included into oral care products for those who have dry mouth or are susceptible to tooth decay.
There are two main properties of xylitol which allow it to prevent tooth decay. Firstly, as a sugar-substitute it adds a sweet flavor to its product, however, unlike sucrose, it is not converted to acid by mouth bacteria. In addition, not only will xylitol not be consumed by mouth bacteria, but research has demonstrated that it will actually reduce levels of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria appear to be unable to stick to teeth as well when xylitol is in their environment.
So, the next time you decide to purchase some chewing gum or candy, try to choose an option with xylitol in it.