Consuming sugary snacks and drinks can contribute to tooth decay and other oral health problems, but you don't have to give treats up completely to keep your teeth healthy. Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol used as a sweetener, can actually help keep your teeth strong and your mouth healthy.
Cavities are one of the most common dental problems, which is why it's so important to brush and floss regularly and limit your sugar consumption. But unlike sugar, the bacteria that reside in your mouth and contribute to tooth decay can't use xylitol as a food source. Consuming xylitol can help to reduce the number of bacteria that produce acid because the pH of your saliva and plaque doesn't fall after eating xylitol.
Fluoride helps protect your teeth against demineralization, but if you'd rather not use fluoride, xylitol can help prevent calcium and other minerals from leaving your teeth, leaving them weakened. If you're at high risk for demineralization due to other dental issues, using xylitol before a fluoride application can help protect your teeth even more than using fluoride alone because xylitol neutralizes the pH of the mouth and reduces the stickiness of plaque, allowing the fluoride to be more effective.
Saliva plays an important role in protecting your teeth, particularly when it comes to repairing damaged enamel. Xylitol makes your saliva more alkaline than other sugar products, causing the pH of your saliva and plaque to rise. An alkaline saliva pH helps calcium and phosphate salts in your saliva move into any areas where your enamel is weak, strengthening your teeth and helping them harden.
Xylitol is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, but most people don't consume enough of them to maximize the dental benefits of the sugar alcohol. Look for gum or mints that use xylitol as a sweetener, and avoid products that use other sweeteners, such as aspartame or sorbitol. These sweeteners provide a food source for bacteria and can negate the benefits of the xylitol. How often you use xylitol products is more important than how much xylitol the product contains. Aim for exposure five times a day for maximum benefits.
Visiting your dentist at least every six months is the most important thing you can do for your overall oral health. Be sure to talk to your dentist about any concerns you have and ask for recommendations for xylitol products to add to your mouth care routine.
For more information, contact a dentist's office like Persona Dental.