When it comes to candy it should come as no surprise that the team at our dental office in Tuscaloosa can be wary of the stuff. But there is a type of candy that we actually encourage our patients to eat. Well, at least chew on. Sugarless gum, or more specifically, gum containing Xylitol, can help keep your mouth healthy.
What is Xylitol?
There are plenty of sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners out there, but Xylitol is a little bit different than what you may put in your morning coffee. Xylitol is a natural compound found in many fruits and vegetables and tastes sweet. But what makes this sweetener a favorite for your dentist in Tuscaloosa is that it’s metabolized differently than regular sugar and sugar substitutes.
How Does Gum Protect Oral Health?
When we eat sugar, it first feeds the bacteria found in our mouths. After eating the sugars, bacteria then release an acidic byproduct. This acid can eat away at tooth enamel and increase the chance for decay. But Xylitol doesn’t give bacteria the nutrients they need to survive. Therefore, teeth are protected from acid and you can still treat your sweet tooth without worrying about decay.
Besides starving bacteria from food, chewing sugarless gum can further reduce the acid levels in your mouth by stimulating saliva production. When we chew gum our salivary glands are working to keep the mouth moist. This surge of spit neutralizes any acids that may already be in your mouth and helps wash away dangerous bacteria. What’s more is saliva strengthens teeth by remineralizing them with calcium and phosphate.
Research has even shown that chewing Xylitol Gum can:
- Reduce inflammation
- Lower the risk for gum disease
- Help the body absorb calcium better which builds strong teeth
A Word of Caution
Xylitol is naturally occurring and considered safe. It’s even used in some medicines. However, some people may experience negative side effects when they have too much. Common side effect include intestinal discomfort such as gas, bloating, or diarrhea. It’s also highly toxic for dogs so make sure to store anything containing Xylitol securely where your pets can’t get to it.
While Xylitol can give your dental health a boost, it’s not recommended as a replacement to brushing and flossing. Make sure to still follow a proper oral hygiene routine at home and visit our dental office in Tuscaloosa at least twice a year.