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The Strange Dental Benefits of Xylitol

As more people are becoming aware of the negative effects that added sugar has on our bodies, the popularity of sugar substitutes has continued to rise. One of the more popular alternatives to added sugar is xylitol, a sugar alcohol. Xylitol tastes just like sugar, but with fewer calories and some added health benefits. Today we’re going to cover what exactly xylitol is, and how you can use this sugar substitute to protect your pearly whites and your gums!

What exactly is xylitol?

Xylitol is chemically known as a sugar alcohol. As the name would imply, sugar alcohols are a mix of sugar and alcohol molecules. According to Healthline, while some believe that sugar alcohols are a zero-calorie sweetener, they are in fact considered low-calorie sweeteners because they occur naturally in fruit and vegetables. There are a total of 8 sugar alcohols approved for human consumption, and xylitol is one of the most widely used in the food industry, according to Healthline. Xylitol is a common ingredient in oral care products, and in many candies and mints that are diabetic-friendly. It’s also an ingredient in many sugar-free gums.

Dental benefits of using xylitol

We know that there’s good and bad bacteria in our mouths. One particular strand of bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, is a major contributor in the development of cavities, according to the Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association (ODHA). Chewing sugar-free gum that contains xylitol helps to slow the growth of this particular bacteria. It also helps neutralize acids that can cause unwanted tooth decay.

Unlike consuming added sugars, which can promote tooth decay and raise your blood sugar levels, xylitol has a significant anti-plaque effect on the surface of your teeth. It can even reduce the gingival inflammation!

Simply put: xylitol is indigestible by bacteria. When you consume xylitol you are essentially starving out bad bacteria! Research has even shown that chewing gum with xylitol “accelerates the processes of rinsing away acid and uptake of beneficial calcium phosphate molecules to remineralize tooth enamel.”

Other Important Health Benefits

“For people with diabetes, prediabetes, obesity or other metabolic problems, xylitol is an excellent alternative to sugar,” reports Healthline. As mentioned above, xylitol is considered a low-calorie sugar substitute, with 40% less calories than sugar. 

According to the University of Sydney, another important benefit to using xylitol instead of sugar is that the glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly your blood sugar rises after eating, is only 7 compared to sugar which is 60-70.

A Warning For Pets

While there are a number of great dental and health benefits to consuming xylitol, it is toxic to dogs. Make sure to keep any products containing this sugar alcohol safely stored away from your pets reach. If you believe your dog has accidentally ingested xylitol, take him/her to the vet immediately.

To make an appointment at Midlothian Dental Center, please give us a call today at (804) 455 - 8221.