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October 27th, 2014

The Wonders of Xylitol Gum—Is it All True?

Category: cincinnati dentist, dental health

Xylitol Gum

Can tasty chewing gum also be good for our teeth and actually prevent tooth decay? We explore Xylitol chewing gum, and where you can get it.

 

What is Xylitol?

Some of us may have baked with it, and others may have noticed it is an ingredient that’s been added into some children’s toothpaste…Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is found in small amounts in vegetable and fruit fibers.  

Because it is a sugar alcohol, it isn’t a sugar, or alcohol. You can think of it as a carbohydrate that acts similar to sugar. After all, most of us have heard of, or want to know about Xylitol, because of how it sweetens.

As a sugar substitute, Xylitol has received attention because of how it lacks some of the harmful effects that table sugar has on our health. It’s actually as sweet as table sugar, but it is metabolized as fewer calories. It also has a lower glycemic index than table sugar, which is appealing to people with certain diets, such as people with diabetes. 

Where does Xylitol come from?

As mentioned, it can be found naturally in plants. It also can be manufactured. Because it’s not classified as an artificial sweetener, food or beverages that contain Xylitol can use the words “all natural” on their label.

How does Xylitol benefit our health in comparison to other sweeteners?

Back in the 1970s, researchers looked at typical chewing gum versus Xylitol-sweetened chewing gum. What they found is that the bacteria in our mouth prefer sugar or disaccharides. Xylitol, on the other hand, is non-fermentable and has a 5-carbon structure (most carbohydrates are six-carbon monosaccharides). Researchers saw how Xylitol acted in a way where it actually worked to stop, and actually prevent bacteria reproduction.

In simple terms, that’s partially because of the unique structure it has: the Xylitol does not “link” with the other sugars in our mouth. Combine this factor with how Xylitol acts as a natural way to bring saliva into our mouths, and we have a healthy combination that helps prevent tooth decay.

What else should we know about Xylitol as a substitute for regular chewing gum?

Hagen dental

Xylitol is approved by the FDA as well as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. If you’re looking for some of the preventive benefits of Xylitol gum, or maybe looking for a substitute for your Halloween candy this year, here are a few places that carry it:

  • Whole Foods Market
  • Trader Joes
  • Select Kroger stores in the specialty aisle
  • Online, such as Amazon or other health outlets

Be sure to confirm on the nutrition label it is Xylitol-containing gum. When consuming Xylitol, keep in mind some people can have side effects such as an upset stomach, bloating, or diarrhea because of how Xylitol is digested. (Also keep in mind it could take large quantities of consumption in order to have any negative side effects, but speak to us, or your primary care physician if you have any questions.)

Read this PDF on Xylitol for more information.

 

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