The Decay-Preventive Sweetener
Xylitol® is a natural sugar alcohol that helps prevents cavities. You may recognize other sugar alcohols used in sugarless products, such as mannitol and sorbitol. Xylitol is the sugar alcohol that shows the greatest promise for cavity prevention.
Xylitol® is a five-carbon sugar alcohol derived primarily from forest and agricultural materials. It has been used since the early 1960s in infusion therapy for post-operative, burn and shock patients, in the diet of diabetic patients and as a sweetener in products aimed at improved oral health (such as chewing gum).
Xylitol is FDA-approved and is available over the counter in many forms, such as mints, chewable tablets, lozenges, toothpastes, mouthwashes and cough mixtures. Xylitol chewing gum has been shown to be effective as a preventive agent.
Xylitol inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause cavities. It does this because these bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) cannot utilize xylitol to grow. Over time with xylitol use, the quality of the bacteria in the mouth changes and fewer and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces. Less plaque forms and the level of acids attacking the tooth surface is lowered.
Studies show that Streptococcus mutans is passed from parents to their newborn children, thus beginning the growth of these decay-producing bacteria in the child. Regular use of xylitol by mothers has been demonstrated to significantly reduce this bacterial transmission, resulting in fewer cavities for the child.
Remember, the daily brushing and flossing and regular visits to your dentist is still the most important for the dental decay prevention.
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