CAN NATURAL SWEETNER HELP CURE CAVITIES?
Xylitol is an all-natural sweetener found in many fruits and vegetables including plums and raspberries. It tastes and looks like sugar. Because of its unique molecular structure, xylitol reduces the amount of tooth eating acid that is produced by the bacteria in our mouth. Because of these and other health benefits, many consider xylitol a healthy alternative to sugar.
Xylitol was originally discovered in the 1890’s and has been used extensively in Europe since World War II. Although originally approved by the FDA in 1963, as a special food additive, xylitol is relatively new to the US market. Because of recent studies demonstrating its dental benefits, the market for xylitol in the US is rapidly expanding. ( http://www.epicdental.com/t-xylitol-faqs.aspx#1A )
The first research evaluating the use of xylitol to prevent dental cavities was performed in Finland in the late 1960’s. Since that time a number of observation studies and field trials have been performed throughout the world. (http://www.xylitolpreventscavities.com/science/how-xylitol-works.html)
The National Center for Health Statistics has reported that in the United States by the time children are 17; almost 80% have experienced cavities. In Finland it was practically the opposite. Eighty percent of their high school graduates showed no signs of dental decay. A 40-month, multi-national chewing gum study published in the Journal of Dental Research showed decreased tooth decay for children chewing xylitol gum in comparison to those who chewed none or had gum sweetened with other substances.
Cavities begin with bacteria that live inside dental plaque causing an acidic environment. When xylitol products are used, the bacteria that cause cavities cannot ferment the xylitol and therefore collectively produce reduced quantities of acidic byproducts that will damage the teeth. As a result, a starvation effect will occur due to the inability of cariogenic bacteria to metabolize xylitol.
All of the different types of bacteria in the mouth whose presence can cause tooth decay are collectively known as cariogenic bacteria. A characteristic that each of these types of bacteria has in common is that they all thrive in a low pH (acidic) environment. Because the presence of xylitol inhibits the ability of these bacteria to create acidic byproducts, the dental plaque environment in which they live is less hospitable to their growth.
Xylitol has been approved for use by people of all ages. Studies suggest that children especially can benefit from using xylitol.
Ideal exposure time is best determined by the family’s dentist or pediatrician. Dosage amounts will vary as children age.
Some dentists also recommend that the parents of young children regularly use gum or mints that contain xylitol to help reduce the cavity causing bacteria from spreading.
Studies have shown as much as an 80% reduction in cavities for children whose mothers used xylitol gum during the first few years of her child’s life.
Some now believe that xylitol will eventually replace fluoride as one of the most important scientific finds for creating healthier mouths and decreasing cavity formation. Xylitol also does not hold the controversy that fluoride has had for many years. People who are anti-fluoride have suggested that fluoride is a cancer causing substance whereas xylitol is a naturally occurring substance that is as sweet as any candy and stops bad cavity causing bacteria in the mouth. Studies continue but have suggested that 4-12 grams of xylitol daily can help reduce cavities in kids by as much as 80-90%. Higher levels of xylitol diminish the dental benefits. Xylitols best use is immediately after eating and clearing the mouth by swishing water, if possible. Between meals, replace ordinary chewing gum, breath mints, or breathe spray with comparable xylitol products. In their website, the xylitol organization suggests “Striving for Five” as a great way to help decrease cavities:
1. Use xylitol toothpaste, mouthwash, and nasal spray upon waking up
2. After breakfast use xylitol gum, mints or candy
3. After lunch use xylitol gum, mints or candy
4. After dinner use xylitol gum, mints or candy
5. Use xylitol toothpaste, mouthwash, and nasal spray upon going to bed