Xylitol Gum and Your Teeth

Gum Chewing: Helpful Or Harmful?


You may have heard that chewing gum promotes tooth decay, and usually this is the case. However, there is a fascinating component found on our earth known as Xylitol, and when put in the gum we chew, it works to prevent tooth decay.  Xylitol is an all-natural sweetener, and when used instead of sugar in gum, it does more than just keep the sugar out of your mouth; this replacement actually defends your teeth from cavities and decay.

How Does Xylitol Gum Work?

Using Xylitol gum after meals and snacks can help reduce the acid level in your mouth, which protects your teeth from enamel erosion. It also stimulates salivary flow 10 times the normal rate, which helps to wash away the acid and food particles that are produced by the bacteria and plague found in your mouth. When toothbrushing is impractical after consuming food, chewing xylitol gum helps neutralize the acid because of the increased concentration of bicarbonates. While it is not intended to replace tooth brushing and flossing, it helps considerably with dry mouth.

In detail, Please.

Xylitol is a white crystalline substance that is used to replace sugar in a myriad of products because it looks and tastes just like it.  It is found naturally; it can be extracted from birch, plums, corn, mushrooms, or raspberries. While it is not a sugar, it is a sugar alcohol. Sometimes it is referred to as wood sugar or birch sugar. As part of our normal metabolism, our bodies produce up to 15mg per day.

Using Xylitol as a benefit in preventing tooth decay was “discovered” in the early 1970s, in Finland.  The bacteria that is found in our mouths, called streptococcus mutants, creates toxins and acids that work to dissolve our teeth when sucrose –or refined sugar–is eaten. Because Xylitol is not fermented by oral bacteria, it cannot cause cavities (caries).  There are many ways this amazing substance works magic on our smile:

  • It inhibits the growth of s.mutans and lactobacilli, which are both cavity producing bacterias that are found in the mouth, by as much as 90%
  • It prevents spreading of the aforementioned bacteria from mother to child
  • It reduces the ability of plague to stick to the teeth
  • It stimulates the flow of saliva in the mouth. which creates a wonderful buffer against acids. This aids in the remineralization of your teeth.

It is important to note that the dosage of Xylitol that is added to chewing gum or candy is critical.  To receive the benefits discussed above, you should receive 6 to 10 grams of Xylitol each day.  When reading a label to see whether or not your product contains Xylitol, be sure that it is the first sugar listed; hopefully it will be the only sugar substance contained in the product.  To be truly effective, Xylitol gum should be utilized several times throughout the day over longs periods of time. (6 months, a year, two years)

Xylitol is not only added to gum, but also other oral hygiene products such as toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, and fluoride supplements.  When brushing and flossing is not optional, chewing Xylitol gum is a wonderful alternative.  It also greatly helps those who suffer from dry mouth, stimulating the flow of saliva,  and exposed tooth root surfaces, as decay prevention.

It should be noted that chewing any gum should not be overdone, as it could cause headaches or jaw discomfort.  Please call our office for product recommendations!

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