What Is Xylitol?

At Signature Smiles Family Dentistry, we aim to help our patients understand how to properly care for their oral health. This means keeping you informed about tooth-healthy foods and dental products that contribute to optimal oral health. You probably already know that things like sugary treats, refined carbohydrates, soda, and sticky candy aren’t good for your teeth. But what about sugar substitutes, like xylitol? Today, we want to talk about where xylitol comes from and what it can do to keep your teeth healthy.

All About Xylitol

Xylitol is a plant-based sugar alcohol that is sugar-free. It is often used to sweeten mints, gum, and sugar-free candies. While it has a similar sweetness taste as sugar, it contains 40% fewer calories and is a safe sugar substitute for those with diabetes.

Blonde woman blows a pink gum bubble that contains xylitol against a yellow background

Xylitol & Oral Health

Although xylitol is sweet-tasting, bacteria doesn’t feed upon it to produce enamel-damaging acids in the mouth that can cause tooth decay. This magical substance actually does the opposite! It is part of a class of antibacterial sugar substitutes known as polyols that help fight plaque and cavities. Therefore, chewing sugar-free gum with xylitol after eating a meal can help to clean teeth and prevent tooth decay. But keep in mind that chewing sugar-free gum or mints should never replace a daily oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing!

Xylitol Considerations

Xylitol is safe for everyday use in small doses. Large doses of xylitol are not recommended. Moreover, never give a dog any foods containing xylitol (it is sometimes used in peanut butter, a favorite treat of many pups). It will make them sick. If your dog gets into your chewing gum or mints, consult your veterinarian.

Why Sugar Substitutes Are Beneficial

Starchy carbohydrates and sweets lead to dental problems. This is because bacteria feed upon these sugars to create an acidic environment that damages your teeth. More sugar allows bacteria to grow and produce even more acid, leading to plaque, tartar, cavities, sensitive teeth, bad breath, and gum disease. Some sugar substitutes, like stevia and monk fruit are suitable for baking, while others, like xylitol, are great for gum and mints.

If you have any questions about nutrition and your teeth, we’d love to help. A good rule of thumb is to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, lean sources of protein, and a variety of fiber sources, like whole grains. Keep prepackaged and processed foods to a minimum, and always brush and floss daily!