If you’ve ever been curious enough to read the ingredients on a pack of sugar-free gum, you may have seen “xylitol” listed. Not only will Xylitol score you big points in a game of Scrabble, but it may also score you big points with your dentist. Keep reading to find out how Xylitol is so much more than a gum ingredient, and what it can do to strengthen your smile.
What Is Xylitol?
According to Healthline, Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, meaning it has a chemical structure that combines traits of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules. It doesn’t actually function as a sugar or alcohol, but rather a low-digestible carbohydrate. Xylitol is most commonly used as a natural, sugar-free sweetener because it has 40% fewer calories than sugar, and doesn’t spike blood sugar levels, but it still has a sweet taste on the tongue.
It is sourced from birch trees and other types of hardwood trees, is found in some fruits, and our bodies produce small amounts during the metabolic process. So it’s 100% natural and safe to consume and swallow.
Why Xylitol is a Prime Ingredient for Toothpaste
Xylitol is sugary sweet, but don’t let that fool you because it has a wealth of dental benefits. Everyone knows that sugar is one of your teeth’s worst enemies, but as pointed out earlier, xylitol isn’t a sugar, and can actually act as a shield against the damaging effects of too much sugar.
Our mouths naturally accumulate bacteria called Streptococcus mutant which is responsible for building up plaque. While it’s no harm for some bacteria to stick around, too much bacteria will lead to acid buildup and tooth decay. The bacteria in our mouths feed off of the glucose (sugar) found in food, but they cannot metabolize xylitol. When they ingest xylitol it fills up their energy production pathway leaving no room for the glucose they need to operate and reproduce. Without a proper food source, the bacteria die, and can no longer stick to the teeth and wear them down.
Like most of our body, mouths work on the pH scale which, simply put, is a scale ranging from 1-14 with a pH of 7 being neutral, less than 7 being acidic, and greater than 7 being basic. Our mouths and saliva fall on the acidic side of neutral with a pH of around 6-7, and they rely on staying within this range in order to keep things healthy and operating how they are intended. pH can be thrown off by built-up bacteria, or if you have acid reflux, dry mouth, are aging, breathe through your mouth, or consume a lot of acidic foods. When saliva pH is too low, acid builds up which attacks your teeth and leads to softened enamel and tooth decay, which means you’ll be spending some time in the dentist’s chair with a drill in your mouth. However, xylitol will neutralize an acidic pH and you can avoid painful visits to the dentist.
Xylitol has also been shown to increase saliva production. Saliva is crucial to teeth and mouth health because it deposits calcium and phosphate into enamel, keeping it strong and protective. If you don’t produce enough saliva, not only will you have trouble absorbing those vital minerals, but it will also lead to dry mouth which can be uncomfortable, cause sores and bad breath, and make eating and even talking difficult.
There are several different processes happening in your mouth and around your teeth simultaneously, and xylitol helps keep most of them in check. So reaching for a bottle of toothpaste with xylitol on the ingredient label can lead to stronger, healthier teeth with the added joy of a little bit of sweetness.
Better than Fluoride?
Fluoride is often touted as the be-all, end-all solution for strengthening enamel and tooth decay, but there are negative side effects associated with too much fluoride consumption, such as dental fluorosis, muscle and nerve health issues, and weakened bones. Children especially are at risk of ingesting too much fluoride since they have problems properly spitting out toothpaste when brushing, which can be toxic and dangerous with build up. Xylitol can offer the tooth decay prevention benefits that fluoride has with less risks.
Now that you’ve brushed up your knowledge of xylitol, you can grab a bottle of Cleure toothpaste, and brush up your teeth knowing that xylitol is in there fighting tooth decay and dry mouth while providing a great taste.