Nov. 24, 2022
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that helps prevent tooth decay. Compared to D-mannitol and sorbitol, which are used in sugar-free products, xylitol is the most effective in preventing tooth decay. Xylitol is comparable in sweetness and particle size to sucrose, so it can be used as a complete substitute for sucrose in all types of foods. For example, as sugar for cereals, hot beverages, and baking (unless yeast fermentation with sucrose is required).
Because xylitol is not used by the bacteria in the mouth that cause tooth decay (Streptococcus pyogenes), it inhibits the growth of such bacteria. As the consumption of xylitol increases over time, the bacteria in the mouth change qualitatively: there are fewer cavity-causing bacteria on the tooth surface and therefore less plaque, and the level of acid that can attack the tooth surface decreases.
Studies have shown that Streptococcus pyogenes is transmitted from parents to newborns and that this type of bacteria grows and multiplies in children. Long-term consumption of xylitol by mothers significantly reduces the spread of such bacteria, thereby reducing tooth decay in children.
Xylitol is commonly found in chewing gum and mints, and it is necessary to check the ingredient list to know if it is contained. It is generally accepted that if xylitol is to be caries-proof, the amount needs to be first in the ingredient list. There are many xylitol-containing foods available in health food stores. In addition, there are several companies that distribute xylitol products through the Internet.
Xylitol chewing gum or mints are best consumed 3 to 5 times a day with a 5g intake. The timing and frequency of contact between the gum and the mouth and teeth is important, and the gum should be chewed for approximately 5 minutes to allow the mints to fully dissolve. Since xylitol is slowly digested in the large intestine, it acts much like dietary fiber and can cause soft stools or have a laxative effect when consumed in large amounts. However, the recommended serving size for preventing tooth decay is much less than the amount that causes adverse intestinal reactions.
Xylitol has been approved as safe by many agencies, including the U.S. FDA, WHO's Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, and the European Union's Scientific Committee on Food.
As part of a healthy diet and good home care system, xylitol has been shown to have caries-preventive properties, especially in people transitioning from moderate to high risk of dental caries.