sugar that starves bacteria

40% Fewer Calories Than Sugar

7 glycemic value of xylitol
1:1 diabetic sugar exchange
Sugar That Starves Bacteria

Sugar That Starves Bacteria

The sweetener xylitol was discovered in 1890 but it was of little interest until the world wars led countries to pursue substitutes for expensive sugar. Japan, Germany, Russia and Finland led in the production of xylitol, which is naturally derived from the cell walls of vegetative matter, especially birch trees. Most people have heard of fluoride but few who have heard about xylitol, which has been shown to reduce cavities, prevent and reverse plaque, and remineralize teeth. Until the 1970s, xylitol was used primarily in the U.S. in small domestic markets as a sweetener in the diabetic diet. That changed, however, with a series of published studies in Finland from 1971-73 showing the preventive and remineralizing effect of xylitol in the Turku Sugar Studies. Since then, several clinical trials in many countries have confirmed these results. In Finland, oral health personnel have recommended daily use of xylitol chewing gum in their dental health education. Moreover, commercial companies have advertised xylitol, emphasizing in particular its preventive effects. All Nordic dental associations have given their recommendations for xylitol use.

Now we’re discovering the many ways of using xylitol to achieve dental benefits. These include diabetic friendly powder sweetener for baking and cooking; nasal wash for allergies and asthma; and chewing gums, mints, toothpastes and mouth washes for reducing tooth decay.

Convincing research over the past few decades has shown xylitol to inhibit growth of harmful dental bacteria. The December 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (139;12:1602-14) noted, when it comes to xyitol, “There is consistent evidence to support the use of xylitol-containing chewing gum as part of normal oral hygiene to prevent dental bacteria.”

Targets Bacteria

Xylitol is not metabolized by the bacteria that usually cause plaque, which does not form on teeth and cause dental decay. Traditional solutions, like brushing, flossing and using an oral rinse are important. “Xylitol complements fluoride and helps it to work even better,” says Doyle Williams, D.D.S., who practiced dentistry in Dallas, Texas, and is Dental Director of Delta Dental of Massachusetts. “Xylitol is an important addition to our diet because it targets with pinpoint accuracy the acid-producing bacteria Streptus mutans that causes tooth decay. Being a five carbon sugar, the bacteria simply can’t digest xylitol. They starve to death.”

Part of Overall Strategy

Pediatric dentist John Peldyak practices general family dentistry, and treats children for the Mobile Dentists in-school program. He was a member of the University of Michigan Xylitol Research Group. He recommends adding xylitol gum and mints to basic brushing and flossing habits. “I follow the standard oral hygiene recommendations of brushing, flossing and using of topical fluoride. But then I add something more that gives my teeth a big advantage: I use xylitol gums, mints and candies.”

The California Dental Association recommends patients consider xylitol “as part of an overall strategy for decay reduction” and adds that, “With xylitol use, the quality of the bacteria in the mouth changes and fewer and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces. Less plaque forms and the level of acids attacking the tooth surface is lowered.”

Xylitol is so safe that the World Health Organization and the Food and Drug Administration give it their highest safety ratings (including being “generally recognized as safe” in America). All in all, xylitol holds a lot of promise to consumers. More than just a sugar that starves bacteria– although that alone would be reason enough to consider using it–xylitol’s benefits continue to be revealed and appreciated worldwide.

ReferencesHonkala S, Honkala E, Tynjälä J, Kannas L. Use of xylitol chewing gum among Finnish schoolchildren. Acta Odontol Scand. 1999 Dec;57(6):306-9. Lous J. [Chewing gum can prevent acute otitis media]. [Article in Danish] Ugeskr Laeger. 2013 Feb 25;175(9):574-6.
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