Brush, Floss and now Xylitol?
At your recent dental appointment, you may have heard us talk about Xylitol. You may be thinking, “I already brush and floss, now what?”
How can Xylitol help me get less cavities?
Tooth decay happens when bacteria in your mouth consume the sugars we eat. When you eat food containing ordinary sugar, it gives bacteria on your teeth energy, allowing them to multiply and start making acids that can eat away the enamel on the teeth. This “acid attack” starts to create cavities. While some foods are “sugar-free” such as diet drinks, they are usually acidic and therefore very damaging to teeth. Gatorade and evergy drinks like Red Bull each have a pH value around 3.2. Most carbonated sodas, like Coke and Pepsi, contain phosphoric acids that create an acidity level typically around pH 2.8 (go to www.cleanwhiteteeth.com for a list of beverage pH levels). Using Xylitol or other tooth-protective food can take the acidity from your mouth.
Xylitol “sugar” is different. First, it’s important to note that Xylitol is not an artificial sweetener. Xylitol is an all-natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of fruits and vegetables, as well as birch trees. It does not break down like other sugars and the bacteria cannot use it as their energy source. This can help keep a neutral PH level in the mouth. Less acidic PH in your mouth means no “acid attack” and less decay! Because the bacteria in your mouth are unable to digest Xylitol, their growth is greatly reduced. Research says that the number of acid producing bacteria may fall by as much as 90%.
The use of Xylitol after a meal or snack also appears to make the bacteria less sticky. After taking Xylitol, the bacteria do not adhere well to the surface of teeth and as a result, the amount of plaque decreases.
Sounds good so far, right?
Where do I get Xylitol?
Here’s the important part for our patients to understand. Xylitol needs to be consumed through out the day, in a concentrated form. Many gums and mints, including the popular Trident, have begun using Xylitol to sweeten their products. However, the concentration is not high enough. We can help you find products that use Xylitol as the primary sweetener. It is best to use products that encourage chewing or sucking to keep Xylitol in contact with your teeth.
How much, how often?
To achieve the dental benefits of Xylitol, a patient needs to consume 5 to 10 grams daily. The “all Xylitol” mints and gums contain about one gram of Xylitol per piece. This makes it fairly easy to keep track of your Xylitol intake. You could begin with as little as one piece four times a day for a total of four grams.
For many of our patients, a Strive for Five plan works well:
- Use a xylitol toothpaste or mouthwash in the morning upon waking up. This will give you about 1 gram of Xylitol.
- After breakfast, use Xylitol gum, mints, spray or candy. It only needs to be in your mouth about 5 minutes. This will give you another gram.
- After lunch, use Xylitol gum, mints, spray or candy.
- After dinner, use Xylitol gum, mints,spray or candy.
- At bedtime, brush with Xylitol toothpaste and/or use a Xylitol mouthwash.
If you would like to hear more, or have questions about using Xylitol, please feel free to give us a call or ask at your next dental appointment.