Most people have never heard of xylitol. It is a sugar alcohol, so has a low glycemic index and can be consumed safely by diabetics. But its oral benefits were discovered by accident (as many things are it seems) through its use as a nasal spray to clear the sinuses of bacteria.
When bacteria metabolize or “eat” its five-carbon sugar, it causes the bacterium to die. In the last few years, its use in dentistry has really picked up due to its ability to alter the bacterial population of the mouth, especially for cavity-causing, acid-releasing bacteria such as Strep mutans.
In fact, simply putting xylitol in your mouth and moving it around a bit cuts plaque (which is made up of bacteria) levels by 50%. And there are many ways to get xylitol onto your teeth::
- Spry is our favorite brand – must be 100% xylitol to be effective! Can be found at Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Fresh Thyme, online, or at your favorite Omaha dentist office (yours truly). Great tasting too! No yucky aftertaste.
My kids love it.
- Carifree is a product that has revolutionized our ability to alter the tough, sticky “biofilm” of bacteria that lives permanently on the teeth. Carifree has xylitol, as well as a pH neutralizer, fluoride, and calcium nanophosphate to remineralize teeth. Studies have shown a significant reduction in decay with Carifree products. However, for a more natural product xylitol can be used alone.
- Spry toothpastes and rinses are great tasting – especially the wintergreen! – and pastes come with or without fluoride. Their kids’ gel is great, very few ingredients, no fluoride, xylitol, and safe to use until your kiddo can spit all their toothpaste out and rinse well to avoid any swallowing of fluoride.
- Granulated xylitol
- This is the most economical way to buy xylitol – around $7 or so per pound. It has a cooling sensation on your tongue, and no aftertaste. My husband has used it daily in his coffee for five years, and I bake banana bread and cookies with it regularly. In its granulated form, you can just place a half teaspoonful or so on your tongue and use your tongue to rub it on all of your tooth surfaces, then spit it out.
“Strive for five” is the catchy phrase we use to note that we get a cariogenic or decay-reducing effect from xylitol when it is used at least three, but optimally five times per day. Xylitol is a game-changer