Xylitol is one of those products that a lot of people have heard about, but may not know exactly what it does, or why it could be beneficial for their oral health. Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance that is found in plant materials, in particular fruits and vegetables. It is best known as being a sugar substitute, and is commonly found in sugar free chewing gum and sweets. It also has a reputation for helping to alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth, and in helping to prevent tooth decay. It is something that patients visiting Leeds City Dentalcare occasionally ask about.
Up until now its usefulness in helping to prevent tooth decay or in being able to improve oral health has been questionable. Now a secondary analysis of a previous three year trial that compared the effectiveness of xylitol sweets with a placebo, has found results that are statistically significant, and which support its effectiveness. However before anyone gets too excited it is important to emphasise that the benefits found were relatively modest. In spite of this, researchers still think that xylitol can play a part in helping to improve oral health, and that daily use of lozenges containing xylitol can help to lessen the chances of cavities forming. They also think it would be worthwhile carrying out a larger trial on its effectiveness, especially if larger doses were to be used. This research may help those patients at higher risk of developing caries, but the importance of other conventional treatments should not be ignored.
How Does Xylitol Work?
Xylitol is naturally sweet, but unlike other sugars it cannot be used as an energy source by the bacteria that are commonly found in the mouth. Most sugars are used by bacteria in the mouth, which then create acids as a by-product of this process. As xylitol cannot be metabolised by these bacteria, the mouth remains neutral so the risk of tooth decay is not increased. In addition the sweet taste of xylitol stimulates the flow of saliva in the mouth, helping to rinse away any other sugars or any food remnants. This is something else that helps to keep the pH of the mouth neutral.
Xylitol is called non-cariogenic, in that it does not contribute towards the formation of cavities in the teeth, and helps to prevent the formation of new cavities in the teeth. It can actually help to reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Xylitol is No Substitute for Good Oral Hygiene
In spite of its properties, chewing gum or eating lozenges containing xylitol is not a substitute for good oral hygiene. You still need to visit our Leeds surgery at regular intervals for check-ups with Dr David Brown or other dentist in Leeds, and for professional cleanings as implementing preventative dental measures is still the best way of ensuring your mouth remains free from disease. In addition you’ll still need to spend a few minutes a day brushing your teeth and flossing thoroughly. However it is easy to chew gum containing xylitol after a meal, especially if you cannot clean your teeth soon afterwards.
Xylitol is not known to be toxic for humans, but it is important not to eat too much of it each day as it can have a slight laxative effect if consumed in sufficiently large quantities. If you have pets then it is important to make sure products containing xylitol are kept out of reach as this substance can be pretty dangerous for them if they consume it.