I was at the dentist today when out of the blue my dentist told me that I get cavities quite easily and that I should start taking xylitol mints after eating. He tells me this while my mouth is crammed with gauze, a dental dam and a drill so I didn’t have a chance to ask WHY until the end.
When my mouth was free again and I remembered his demand that I buy Xylitol mints I asked about it and he went into a little more detail. He told me that some people get get cavities more easily than others because of the type of bacteria in their mouths. He went on to tell me that we’re born without our mouth bacteria and that we get it from our environment – usually from our mothers who taste our food as babies before they feed us.
It sounded vaguely like a scam being perpetuated by the sugar free/dental industry, but by the end he’d convinced me to at least try it out. Apparently taking Xylitol mints after each meal is a god way to improve the environment in our mouths. According to my dentist bad bacteria that feeds on sugar and causes cavities in our mouths will eventually die out due the the Xylitol and will over time leave us with a healthier colony of bacteria that’s less inclined to cause cavities.
I’m willing to try this because popping a few mints after each meal is harmless, but here’s what the internet has to say about Xylitol.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plants, including many fruits and vegetables. It’s mainly extracted from birch wood and is used a a sugar substitute in ‘sugar-free’ gum and candy. Structurally Xylitol is different than sugar because it has five, not six carbon atoms. Most mouth bacteria cannot make use of such sugars, which is why xylitol can help prevent cavities.
Benefits of Xylitol?
Well – according to Xylitol Canada, which may be biased, Xylitol is a dentist’s dream. It reverses the negative effects of sugar on your oral health. Because Xylitol is non-fermentable it can’t be converted to acids by oral bacteria, which helps to restore a proper alkaline/acid balance in the mouth. This alkaline environment is inhospitable to all the bad bacteria, and it inhibits plaque formation.
Long-term use suppresses the most harmful strains of oral bacteria, making a long-lasting change in those bacterial communities. Xylitol even has the ability to enhance the mineralization of the enamel. It is most effective in treating small decay spots. Although larger cavities won’t go away, they can harden and become less sensitive.
How to add Xylitol to your diet
Using xylitol right before bedtime, after brushing and flossing, protects and heals the teeth and gums. The best way to start adding it to your diet is to pop a couple of xylitol mints after each meal. You could consider this a fairly affordable supplement, and if in fact it will save your teeth it’s definitely worth it. I’ve picked up this pack of mints from Spry
Xylitol is said to be safe in the amounts found in food. It seems safe as a medicine for most adults in amounts up to about 50 grams per day. Higher doses is known to cause diarrhea and stomach discomfort. There is some concern that extremely high doses for long periods of time (more than three years) can cause tumors.
There seem to be some alarmists out there, but overall Xylitol seems to be safe and beneficial when taken in small quantities. To me it’s worth trying as it’s relatively affordable and easy to include in your diet and if it really is as good for oral health as the industry claims then it would be well worth the effort of popping a few mints after a meal.