By Advance Your Health Dental | Dr. Dirk Thompson, D.D.S. | Calgary Dentist
You’ve probably seen advertisements for xylitol and its dietary benefits as a sugar substitute. Perhaps you’ve even heard your dentist talk about xylitol, or your dentist has made recommendations to use xylitol containing products such as chewing gum as an alternative to chewing gum with sugar. But what is xylitol and does it really have any benefits at all for your oral health? Here’s what our Calgary dentist wants you to know.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar which is found in vegetables, fruits and berries. Xylitol is a highly processed product made from xylitol rich sources such as birchwood, beechwood and corn cobs. It belongs to a class of compounds called sugar alcohols. Xylitol has been approved by many countries for use in foods such as mints, candies, chewing gum and syrups, as well as in toothpastes and other oral health care products such as mouth rinses.
Can Xylitol Help Improve Your Oral Health?
Xylitol plays several roles in potentially helping your oral health. First, xylitol reduces the level of bacteria, in particular, mutans streptococci (MS) in not only the plaque on your teeth but also in your saliva, basically by starving the bacteria. In addition to reducing the level of MS, xylitol also reduces their acid production potential and promotes tooth mineralization by increasing salivary flow when put in foods such as chewing gum. When the consumption of xylitol is habitual, an overall decrease of MS levels can be seen. What does this mean? According to an article published by the National Institute of Health, studies are showing that this means that, in effect, xylitol can decrease the overall incidence of cavities by reducing bacteria, plaque, gingival inflammation, tooth erosion and by increasing the saliva in your mouth, particularly when it is chewed in chewing gum.
Although the mechanics of the effect of xylitol on bacteria, acid levels and saliva are well-researched, what is not as well known is the daily consumption required to be able to benefit from xylitol’s positive effect on the incidence of cavities and other oral health issues. According to this article published by the National Institute of Health, the promising research completed to date on this subject most definitely warrants further research into this subject.
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Xylitol Is Very Dangerous For Your Dog
According to VCA Hospitals, even very small amounts of xylitol can be very detrimental to your dog. This is because xylitol can cause your pet to produce insulin, which can lead to hypoglycemia. Because of the health dangers of xylitol to your dog, never share any xylitol containing foods with your dog. Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and can also lead to liver failure, seizures and in severe cases, even death. If you dog does eat any food containing xylitol, be sure to seek professional advice and contact your veterinarian immediately.
Xylitol Is Not Calorie Free
Xylitol is not a zero calorie sweetener. One of the benefits of xylitol, however, is that it contains approximately 40% fewer calories than sugar. Further, according to Diabetes Canada, if you have diabetes, xylitol will not affect your blood glucose levels. However, if you are diabetic, before introducing xylitol into your diet, you should always check with your physician or dietician to make sure it is safe for you and you are aware of any possible undesirable side effects.
Xylitol May Cause Stomach Upset
Because of the slow absorption rate of xylitol in the small intestine, the consumption of xylitol in some people may cause diarrhea, gas and bloating. The sensitivity of xylitol, however, varies amongst individuals. If you wish to try to introduce xylitol into your diet, give your body time to adjust to its effects and introduce it slowly, in very small quantities, over a period of several weeks. If you have any adverse side effects, decrease or stop the use of xylitol altogether, depending upon the severity of your reaction. If necessary, speak to your family physician about the potential side effects of xylitol and whether continued use is recommended.
So, What Does All Of This Mean?
At the end of the day, there is little doubt that reducing your overall sugar intake will be beneficial to your oral health. Sometimes, replacing regular sugar with alternative sweeteners such as xylitol can help us achieve the goal to reduce our overall sugar intake. However, as our Calgary dentist always advises his patients, this is only part of the formula for your optimal oral health. Reducing your overall sugar intake, eating a healthy diet and maintaining healthy oral hygiene habits such as brushing, flossing, protecting your smile with a mouthguard while playing sports and regular dental visits to our Calgary dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings is the key to maintaining your optimal oral health for a lifetime.
If you have any questions regarding your oral health and how you can maintain a healthy, happy smile, please call our Calgary dentist office at 403.283.4252. Our dedicated team of dental professionals is here to help you reach and maintain all of your dental health and aesthetic goals. Call us today!
Please be advised that this blog post is for informational purposes only. It is not to be taken or used as a substitute for dental, medical or other professional advice, treatment or diagnosis. Always ask your dentist, physician or other healthcare professional for advice before altering your diet or healthcare routine. Individual patient needs and oral healthcare concerns vary so please consult your dentist for more informtion about your specific dental health requirements.
Copyright: Dirk A. Thompson Professional Corporation operating as Advance Your Health Dental. Dr. Dirk A. Thompson, D.D.S., is a general dentist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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