Everyone knows that tooth decay occurs when bacteria in your mouth consumes the sugars we have eaten, resulting in tooth aches and possible fillings. But one way to prevent tooth decay is through using a natural compound know as xylitol, rather than artificial sweeteners and sugars. It has been clinically proven to help protect teeth, but what exactly is it and what are the dental benefits of xylitol?

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural sweetener, often found in many fruits and vegetables and can even be produced by humans in small qualities via a normal metabolism. But it is most commonly found in sugar-free chewing gums, sweets, mints and oral-care products, which is why it is recommended by dentists.

Dentists recommend using xylitol-sweetened chewing gum as countless studies have confirmed that xylitol boosts dental health and helps to prevent tooth decay. Chewing xylitol gum also can increase saliva production, which further aids the fight against tooth decay and gum disease by washing away any plaque bacteria and restoring a healthy pH in the mouth. But how does this happen?

Well, our mouths produce bacteria and plaque each and every day – and this is normal – but too much “bad” bacteria in the mouth can result in excess plaque forming, which is the most common reason for tooth decay.

However, chewing gum with xylitol can prevent this from happening thanks to the ingredient essentially starving the harmful bacteria in your mouth, thus reducing plaque build-up and tooth decay. As a result, this can prevent dental cavities from forming, as well as any nasty inflammatory gum diseases.

In fact, in one particular study xylitol-sweetened chewing gum reduced levels of bad bacteria in the mouth by 27 to 75%, while good bacteria levels remained constant. Another study also suggests that xylitol may increase absorption of calcium into your digestive system, which means it could help to strengthen teeth.

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Why is xylitol better than sugar?

Sugar is harmful to teeth because sugar feeds the “bad” bacteria which helps plaque to form in the mouth. This makes the bad bacteria to create an acidic substance, which erodes our teeth enamel and damaging our teeth. It can go further than teeth, as if you have a particularly sugar-heavy diet, they can cause gum inflammation or even gum disease.

But, unlike sugar, xylitol cannot cause bad bacteria to create this acidic substance. Instead, xylitol starves the bacteria, leaving just “good” bacteria left in the mouth, allowing you to continue enjoying the sweet taste of sugar without it having a negative impact on your dental health.

What are the dental benefits of xylitol?

Research has shown that xylitol has a number of dental benefits on our teeth, helping to improve our oral health in a variety of different ways. Some of these include:

Xylitol makes it difficult for plaque bacteria to stick to our teeth and multiply, helping to reduce the risk of decay.

Xylitol enhances remineralisation – the process of vital minerals in our saliva being reintegrated into weakened tooth enamel, helping to reduce tooth decay by halting the growth of cavities and preventing new ones from forming.

Xylitol increases white bloody cell activity for fighting bacteria, which can help to prevent gum disease and bad breath.