By Susan Braden
This natural sugar alcohol, often used as a sweetener, can actually be a cheap dental method for preventing the growth of cavities. It can help improve both oral and general health in several ways. Xylitol may have a few side effects, but those cases are rare.
Acidity from food consumption tends to weaken the tooth enamel, making it more susceptible to decay. Saliva neutralizes acidity in the mouth, but excess sugar consumption can overpower saliva’s neutralizing properties. Bacteria can then grow more quickly. It sticks to the teeth, and the acid erodes the enamel. Xylitol, however, is not acidic, so acid in the mouth does not stick to the teeth as long. The sweetener’s antimicrobial properties are a cheap way to help keep bacteria and plaque from sticking to the teeth. The substance also increases enamel strength by enhancing its ability to absorb minerals. It can also stimulate the flow of saliva when used consistently and improve its chemical makeup. Good saliva flow helps wash the mouth of unnecessary bacteria and better neutralizes acid. If the mouth is dry, bacteria can grow more easily, leading to tooth decay.
Both dietitians and dentists advocate this ingredient as a healthy sugar substitute. Its disadvantages are rare, because the sweetener has no known toxicity in humans. Ingesting significantly more than the recommended amount could result in stomach pain or diarrhea, however, so proper use is recommended.
For oral protection, dentists recommend six to eight grams of xylitol throughout the day. Consumption should be spread out to at least three times per day. If the recommended amount is consumed all at once, it will be ineffective. Ingesting the sweetener in a way that prolongs contact with the teeth produces the best effect. This can be achieved by chewing gum or sucking on something with this sweetener. Health food stores and some internet sites carry the sweetener, which is slightly more expensive than some other sugar substitutes. However, the health benefits of xylitol actually result in a cheap way to stay healthy. Several brands of chewing gum list this substance as the first ingredient, which means the amount is enough to actually help prevent tooth decay. Some toothpastes, candies and mouth rinses contain the sugar derivative. It is also sold as a bulk sugar substitute.
Tooth decay affects 60-90% of teenagers and adults, according to the World Health Organization. In addition to regular brushing, flossing and dentist checkups, frequently consuming recommended amounts of this sweetener could be a cheap dental option for avoiding cavities and maintaining the utmost oral health.