Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Xylitol, the Sweet Revenge!

What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a natural sweetener made from the fibrous parts of plants.  It is widely encountered in nature in a variety of fruits and vegetables and commonly extracted from birch bark.  It has a sweet taste similar to sugar and has40% fewer calories than regular sugar.

The Xylitol difference for teeth
Cavities happen when bacteria in the mouth feed off of the sugars we eat.  When bacteria in our mouth consume sugars,they multiply and start making acids (as their by-product) that can dissolve and or de-mineralize the enamel which in turn initiates decay/cavity. When we eat xylitol instead of sugar, it does not break down like sugar by bacteria in the mouth and less acid is produced as a result which can help keep a neutral pH level in the mouth.  Xylitol also prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. 

Fewer bacteria, less acid --> Repairing damaged enamel
When the cavity causing bacteria in the mouth is unable to digest xylitolits growth is diminished by as much as 90% which leads to less acid secretion and higher pH of saliva and less de-mineralization of enamel.  After taking xylitol, the bacteria do not stick well on the surface of the teeth and as a result, the amount of plaque decreases.
Use of xylitol also helps repair early damage to the enamel.  Saliva in itself protects the mouth and teeth.  Stimulated saliva in particular contains all the components needed to repair early cavities.  If sugar is only taken a couple of times a day, the saliva can do the job alone. But most people take sugar so often that the mouth's own defensive tools are not enough. 
When pH is above 7, calcium and phosphate salts in saliva start to move into those parts of enamel that are weak. Therefore, soft, calcium-deficient enamel sites begin to harden again.

How much Xylitol do we need to consume?
Studies show that intake of 6-10 grams of xylitol per day is very effective in reducing the number of acid secreting bacteria in the mouth which ultimately lead to tooth decay.  The “all xylitol” mints and gums contain about one gram of xylitol in each piece.  You could begin with as little as one-two piece(s)four times a day for a total of eight grams. When purchasing products containing xylitol, you should read the label to see how much xylitol is present in each unit of the product.  We have looked at several companies who manufacture and distribute xylitol containing products and Epic Dental seems to be one of the better ones.  Most of their products have one gram of xylitol per unit where other companies have 0.5 grams.  While it doesn’t make a difference how you take xylitol and the overall daily dosage matters, you may find it easier to take it in the form of a product that gives you the needed dosage in as little servings as possible.

How often?
If used only occasionally or even as often as once a day, xylitol may NOT be effective, regardless of the amount.  Use xylitol at least three, and preferably 5 times every day.  The reason for this is that every time xylitol comes in contact with your oral cavityit leads to starvation of some of the acid producing bacteria in your mouth.  If the exposure is only once or twice here and there, not enough bacteria will starve to significantly impact the overall pH of the mouth.  Repeated exposure to xylitol on the other hand will lead to an effective, overall reduction in the population of harmful bacteria in the mouth.

When should I use it?
Use immediately after eating and clearing the mouth by swishing water, if possible.  Between meals, replace ordinary chewing gum, breath mints, or breathe spray with comparable xylitol products.  You may also consider using toothpaste that contains xylitol as its sweetener or even a xylitol containing mouthwash.
It Is Effective
This xylitol effect is long-lived and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after the trials have been completed. Research also shows low decay rate in children when xylitol products were used by expecting mothers during pregnancy.
It’s 100% natural
Xylitol is not an artificial substance, but a normal part of everyday metabolism.  Xylitol is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts.
It’s safe
In the amounts needed to prevent tooth decay (less than 12 grams per day), xylitol is safe for everyone.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has given xylitol its safest rating for food additives.  Xylitol is also good for patients with diabetes as it has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar.  Please discuss the use of xylitol with your primary care physician if you have a specific physical condition such as diabetes mellitus.
It’s easy to make it part of your diet
Xylitol can be incorporated into your daily diet very easily.  If you chew gum, you can replace your gum with the xylitol gum and if you like mints or hard candy like me, then substitute the sugary version with the one containing xylitol.  You may substitute your toothpaste with one that is sweetened by xylitol or you may want to rinse with a xylitol  containing toothpaste.  You may replace your table sugar with xylitol which tastes just as sweet and has 40% less calories!
It tastes great!
Xylitolcalories than table sugar…so that makes it a great alternative for table sugar!

How does xylitol differ from other sweeteners?
Xylitol is all natural, not an artificial chemical like aspartame, sucralose, and Splenda.  Chemically speaking, xylitol differs from other sweeteners such as sorbitol, fructose, and glucose because its molecule has five, instead of six, carbon atoms. Most bacteria and yeast in the mouth are unable to make use of xylitol(they can’t digest it; therefore they will not produce any acidic by-product!).  It contains about 40%fewer calories than sugar while its sweetening power is the same as that of sucrose (table sugar).  Xylitol is an important supplement because it may help to reduce the risk of tooth decay, and everyone interested in healthy teeth should be familiar with its properties and effects.
Can diabetics use xylitol?
Our body does not require insulin to metabolize xylitol therefore xylitol  produces a lower glycemic response than sucrose or glucose.  This has made xylitol a widely used sweetener for the diabetic diet in some countries. It’s important to consult your doctor or diet professional before incorporating xylitol into your daily diet.
Where can I purchase products with xylitol?
Please check the “links” section of our website for helpful links to websites that sell xylitol products directly and in bulk. Once on the page, please scroll down until you get to "xylitol" category where you will find the related links listed (they are listed alphabetically).  You can also purchase products containing xylitol in your local natural and organic grocery store like “Whole Foods Market” or “Rainbow Grocery Store”.
What are the other health benefits of xylitol?
First,you are doing your body a big favor by substituting more xylitol for sugar inyour diet.  While xylitol is just as sweet as table sugar (sucrose), it has about 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbohydratesXylitol also won’t raise your blood sugar like regular sugar does, putting tremendous strain on your system, causing negative health effects. Xylitol has also been proven to inhibit the growth of bacteria.  Research shows that this effect enables xylitol to help prevent bacteria and irritants from adhering to upper respiratory passages when used as a nasal wash. Studies have also shown that 8 grams of xylitol, taken orally every day,prevented about 40% of ear infections. For more information on these and other benefits, visit our Medical section.
Is xylitol toxic to dogs?
Yes,yes and yes again!  Many dog owners are aware that chocolate, coffee, and grapes are toxic to dogs, but may not be aware of the risk from ingesting xylitolXylitol is a natural sweetener that is found in a variety of products,including chewing gum, toothpaste, mints, floss, candy, chewable vitamins, and sugar-free baked goods.  While xylitol offers many health benefits to humans, it can be deadly to dogs and should not be fed to any pets.  Ingesting 100milligram of xylitol per kilogram of body weight may cause a rapid release ofthe hormone insulin, causing a sudden decrease in blood glucose (potentially life-threatening hypoglycemia, low blood sugar) for dogs.  The drop in blood sugar occurs within 15minutes, while the symptoms of hypoglycemia (vomiting, depression, loss of coordination, seizures, or coma are all possible symptoms) may be seen within30 minutes after the dog consumes the xylitol-containing product.  Exposure to higher doses of xylitol  may possibly result in fatal liver failure in some dogs.
Seems like we have finally found a sweet way to get even with the harmful bacteria in our mouth!  It is easy, it is effective, andbest of all… it is sweet!  I think we allshould incorporate xylitol into our daily diet by using xylitol gum instead ofother sugar free brands which contain sorbitol or Aspartame; replace the mintor hard candy or lollipops that we enjoy with the ones that contain xylitol  and maybe even use xylitol as an alternative form of sugar substitute in our drinks if we already prefer and use sugar substitute in our cold/warm beverages.  With few changes in our daily diet, we may be able to get a much better edge in fight against tooth decay while flossing and brushing and visiting the dentist’s office for checkup and recall.
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