Dental caries is a transmissible infectious disease that is triggered by mutans streptocci bacteria. As infants we receive the bacteria primarily from our mothers. As we age, these bacteria live in our mouths, feeding off the sugary substances we eat and excreting acids that cause tooth decay. Curtailing the consumption of sugar as well as stopping the original transmission of S. mutans bacteria are important steps in reducing dental caries.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar daily, mainly from soft drinks, energy drinks, grain based desserts and fruit drinks. A sugar substitute called xylitol provides all the taste benefits of sugar without its many drawbacks. Xylitol is a five-carbon sugar alcohol compound. It is neither a sugar nor an alcohol. It occurs naturally in plants or can be manufactured from sugar and starches. Xylitol is not an artificial sweetener, but a crystalline carbohydrate which looks very much like sugar. Our bodies naturally produce xylitol and the enzymes to break it down, so there is no chance of adverse reactions. The use of xylitol increases saliva production and reduces the number of S. mutans bacteria, thereby reducing acide production in the mouth.

Xylitol products include chewing gum, mints, toothpaste, and mouth rinse. The daily use of these productions should be recommended to all patients. Most importantly, mothers and infants should be advised to use xylitol during pregnancy and after childbirth in order to reduce the initial transmission of bacteria. Patients should be encouraged to consume xylitol in three to five divided servings throughout the day. For infants, xylitol nasal drops or sprays and xylitol syrup or gel are effective in blocking or delaying the early transmission of bacteria.

When looking to buy xylitol containing products, patients should look for products that have xylitol as the first ingredient on the label. Products that have 100% xylitol, for maximum benefit, include: Spry Mints, Toothpaste, Gum, Oral Mist and Tootgel; Xlear Nasal Spray; Richochet-Gum and Candies, Xylichew Gum and Mints; and Ice Breakers from Hersheys.

Xylitol’s Preventive and Therapeutic Benefits:

  • Helps prevent tooth decay by reducing plaque formation.
  • Blocks the acids that demineralize the tooth enamel.
  • Halts the growth of acid producing bacteria.
  • Reduces gingival inflammation.
  • Has a glycemic level of 7, which does not trigger an insulin reaction in the body, making it useful for diabetics.
  • Has 40% fewer calories than sugar.

Article from Healthplex Herald, A Newsletter from Healthplex, Inc. “ Leadership in Dental Plans, Volume 14 Issue 4