Xylitol is often met with doubt by many parents, like with most “new” names in the medical and dental industry. But xylitol really does help. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits of xylitol on the dental health of infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs.
Xylitol is a natural sweetener found in small amounts from berries, lettuce, hardwoods (birch trees), and other fruits and vegetables. A cup of raspberries contains less than a gram of xylitol. It’s also found in corncobs, and this is where some concerns about GMO come from, since a lot of corn is now genetically modified.
The name comes from xylan, a plant cellulose. Xylitol is not readily available like honey and maple syrup. Xylitol is produced by hydrogenating xylan. Aside from hydrogen, hydrogenation involves catalyst metals nickel, palladium or platinum. Don’t worry– the risk of metal residue toxicity is rare and nonexistent. But all the same for the highest quality, purest form of xylitol, look for ADA seals on products and birch-based xylitol (rather than corn-based), made in North America (US and Canada) or Europe.
How does xylitol prevent tooth decay?
This is long established by scientific studies and research. Xylitol promotes dental health in two ways.
First, xylitol doesn’t ferment like most sugars, so it doesn’t feed the bacteria (strep mutans) responsible for tooth decay. The more you use xylitol, it begins to change the bacteria strep mutans into their less harmful versions, and the original, bad versions get weaker.
Second, xylitol reduces the adhesiveness of dental plaque. Strep mutans forms in plaque, and plaque attaches itself to teeth, and enamel gets destroyed by byproduct acid that comes from the consumption of sugar fuels by bacteria living in the plaque matrix. But with xylitol, plaque can’t stick very well, and studies show up to a 50% reduction in plaque buildup with the use of xylitol.
Consult your pediatric dentist about your child taking xylitol. For positive results, you’ll need a total of 4-20 grams of xylitol per day, divided into 3-7 consumption periods.
Sugar-free, ADA-approved chewing gum contains xylitol. Chewing gum with xylitol after meals, three times a day, can help prevent tooth decay. Chewing is naturally beneficial, because it encourages the flow of saliva and causes mechanical movement of the jaws and food in between the teeth. Saliva washes away food debris and neutralizes acids in the mouth. Saliva also has calcium and phosphate that help strengthen tooth enamel.
Please note that, despite the positive aspects of xylitol gum chewing, we still do not advocate for chewing gum while wearing orthodontic appliances to reduce the chance of broken braces and to help prevent TMJ symptoms from excessive chewing while the bite is changing.
About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan, the offices of Drs. Delaney, Plunkett, Ralstrom, Makowski, Thanasas, Ker, and Associates
Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan have specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. The ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs reaches beyond our facility, which has treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options. We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.