Sugary sweets can mean bad news for your teeth. But your dentist in Chapel Hill wants all of our patients to know that there is a way to enjoy those sweet cravings without all of the damage of sugar. We’re talking about xylitol, and choosing it over sugar may benefit your oral health.
Xylitol is a natural sugar that’s found in numerous fruits and veggies, and in recent years, has been used as a sugar substitute. Thanks to its naturally sweet flavor, along with its benefits to oral health, it’s become a favorite for your dentist in Chapel Hill.
First of all, xylitol is better for us in general because it’s lower in calories than traditional sugar. This means you can treat yourself to xylitol sweets without worrying much about weight gain. Additionally, xylitol has a lower glycemic index than sugar, meaning it doesn’t cause spikes in blood glucose the way that sugar does. But there’s more. Xylitol can also help satisfy your sweet tooth and protect your teeth at the same time.
Xylitol can help eliminate bad bacteria from the mouth and reduce the chances of that bacteria causing decay and cavities. One of the most common types of bad bacteria in the mouth is something called Streptococcus mutans. This bacteria is known to cause plaque buildup and decay, and they love to feed on sugar. Sugar gives the bacteria energy to multiply, making more bacteria with the more sugar we eat. However, while xylitol will still feed Streptococcus mutans, it doesn’t give them fuel to multiply. In fact, when the bacteria eat xylitol, they will starve. This reduces both bacteria levels and the risk of decay.
One of the most common places where you can find xylitol is in chewing gum. Make sure to check the label. Chewing gum may be one of the best choices for xylitol, too. The act of chewing gum helps stimulate saliva production. This is an important part of oral health. Saliva helps rinse away bad bacteria and neutralize acids in the mouth, helping to protect teeth from enamel erosion and decay. Additionally, saliva helps remineralize teeth with calcium and phosphate, making them stronger over time. That, along with the addition of bacteria-killing xylitol, can help keep teeth healthy.
Xylitol can also be found in most grocery stores, usually in the baking aisle. You can choose to use this as a replacement for sugar in many recipes and in your morning coffee or tea.
When you have a choice, choosing xylitol over sugar can help keep your mouth healthy. Keep in mind that it’s always important to continue to brush and floss your teeth every day. That, along with maintaining regular visits to your dentist in Chapel Hill, is a recipe for a happy, healthy smile.