Xylitol for Oral Health
Imagine a futuristic world where a sweetener could actually prevent and repair cavities in teeth. That world could actually be here right now, with the discovery and development of xylitol.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a non-fermentable sugar alcohol, a natural sweetener found in berries, oats, mushrooms, fruits and trees such as birch bark. We naturally produce it in tiny amounts in the body, which is reassuring to know that it is a safe and natural product. It is sweeter than ordinary sugar, yet is safe for diabetics as it does not affect insulin levels. Better still, it does not cause tooth cavities and actually prevents the oral conditions from developing in which cavities form.
How Xylitol Prevents Cavities
Whenever you eat or drink something containing sugar or carbohydrate, bacteria get to work in the mouth to work on the residue, creating lactic acid as a by-product. The acid attacks the tooth enamel and eventually eats away at the tooth, creating a cavity.
By chewing xylitol gum or mints for around five minutes, the pH level in the mouth is raised. Once it is above pH7, teeth are protected from lactic acid forming and they actually begin to remineralize and repair existing damage.
Tests on xylitol have found that taking it in the form of chewing gum or mints three times a day reduces harmful bacteria presence in the mouth by up to 90%. Fewer bacteria mean less lactic acid, which in turn means fewer cavities. By raising the pH level in the mouth, xylitol helps prevent new cavities, repair enamel and strengthen the teeth.
Xylitol for Diabetics
Although xylitol is sweet, it does not make the body produce insulin to break it down. Consequently blood glucose levels remain stable and are virtually unaffected by this form of sweetener.
Xylitol has a very low ranking on the glycemic index of just 13GI. It is low calorie (about 60% of the calories of ordinary sugar) and is absorbed slowly into the bloodstream. This means it does not cause any hyperglycemia, so no sugar highs and dips, and no problems for diabetics.
Xylitol Availability and Dosage
Manufacturers are slow to move over to xylitol as an alternative sweetener but some products do now contain it. It is more widely available in health food stores. Those wanting to benefit from this revolutionary product need to take about 6 grams per day, preferably by chewing gum or slowly sucking xylitol candy 3-5 times per day for about 5 minutes, to allow it to raise the pH level in the mouth.
Xylitol crystals, toothpaste and mouthwash are another source of xylitol and it can be used as a sugar substitute in cooking. It needs to be the first product on the ingredients list to be effective against tooth cavities, and takers should be aware that taking more than the recommended dose can cause diarrhea.
Xylitol in any dose is unsafe for dogs, but it can be added to cats' water bowls to prevent plaque build-up.