Xylitol is a naturally derived polyol and is a sugar alternative. It is often derived from beech trees ('Xyl’ is Greek for wood - think ‘xylophone’) while other popular sources include birch trees and corn cobs. It is naturally present in small amounts in a lot of common foods.It tastes similar to sugar but with 40% fewer calories, a very low GI (7) and most importantly, it has active dental health benefits.
It has been the subject of over 600 clinical studies and it is well established that habitual xylitol consumption decreases caries (decay) occurrence. Products containing xylitol are now endorsed by over 15 dental associations worldwide and xylitol has a European Food Standards Authority approved health claim for plaque reduction.
So how does it work?
Xylitol is unique among polyols because as well as the passive benefits of not being sugar, it has active benefits, reducing the amount of Mutans Streptococci (MS) bacteria and plaque and acting against low pH in the mouth. MS is believed to be the main bacteria associated with the decay process.
MS are reduced
Xylitol inhibits the growth of MS through a ‘futile metabolic cycle’ whereby the bacteria try to metabolise the xylitol thus wasting energy and ultimately limiting its metabolic efficiency’.
Plaque is reduced
Xylitol reduces the amount of plaque through the reduction in the amount of ‘sticky’ sugars which contribute to the adhesiveness of MS so they cannot stick together to form plaque. Plaque is therefore also easier to remove through everyday brushing or through the constant washing action of the saliva. Significant reductions in bacteria and total plaque quantities can be observed following periods of consumption from as little as two weeks. The plaque stays reduced during xylitol consumption and regrowth is slow when it has ceased.
Reduction In “acid attacks”
Not only is the amount of plaque reduced but plaque cannot produce acids from xylitol so it acts against low pH in the mouth.
Xylitol consumption by mothers prevents decay in their children
Mothers are the primary source of MS bacteria in their children. In studies of young children (3 months to 24 months) consumption of xylitol by the mother has been shown to reduce the child’s MS colonization by as much as 80%’. The positive Impact of this early avoidance of MS can lead to significantly lower caries occurrence even at 5 and 10 years old
To get these benefits, patients should consume 5g of xylitol a day, ideally at intervals after meals. Peppersmith products are 100% xylitol so a pack of their mints or tingz contains l4g of xylitol (25 mints x O.55g xylitol per mint). A pack of gum contains 11g of xylitol (10 pieces of gum x 1.1g of xylitol per gum). Xylìtol can also be found in a number of other formats from granulated bags to dental wipes and toothpastes. The Wild Food Co in Malmesbury High St sell the bags of xylitol
Xylitol has no known toxicity in humans. Consumption needs to tapered initially as it can have a laxative effect as well as causing lowlevel GI disturbances.
It is a problem in dogs, as it can cause very low blood sugar quite quickly.
Which patients should consider using xylitol?
Xlyitol is most helpful for patients who:
- Have a history of cavities and plaque build up
- Are on the go and snack during the day on sugar containing foods
- Are parents of young children (3 months to 24 months)
- Suffer from xerostomia (our products promote saliva)