Can a sweetener really prevent tooth decay? You bet it can, but not all are created equal. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that can actually prevent tooth decay from forming. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria living in a plaque matrix adhered to our teeth. The bacteria in plaque absorbs sugars from our diet and uses it as energy. As a byproduct the bacteria produce waste in the form of acid that slowly erodes our teeth. Saliva is our number one defense against acid erosion, by buffering the acid and replacing lost minerals in tooth structure.
Xylitol sweetener is a way to increase the salivary benefits of preventing tooth decay. Xylitol does not break down like simple sugar and keeps the acidity neutral in our mouth. The bacteria cannot use xylitol as energy, so no acid byproduct is formed. If that wasn’t enough, xylitol actually prevents bacterial plaque from sticking to our teeth! In simple terms, less plaque and less energy for bacteria to use results in less acid destruction.
So the question everyone wants to know, how much xylitol should I be consuming? Quantity is not as important as frequency. More xylitol at once is not as beneficial as multiple xylitol exposures throughout the day (strive for 4-7). You can get creative with how you ingest xylitol as well. Many products such as gum, candy, toothpastes, mouthwash and drinks contain xylitol. Just make sure the product is 100% sweetened with xylitol. So the next time you make a delicious cup of coffee make sure to try xylitol, your teeth will thank you!