Updated: Jul 18, 2019
What is it?
Xylitol (pronounced zy-lee-tol) is a naturally occurring sweetener that tastes like sugar but is actually good for your teeth! It's found in plants and trees - primarily of the birch and beech variety.
Xylitol was first discovered in Finland after World War II when sugar cane was hard to come by, however, its dental benefits were not discovered until the 1970’s. It is now widely added to chewing gum and mints because it helps protect against dental decay.
How does it work?
Every time you eat and drink your teeth are under attack from sugars and acids. When these mix with plaque and bacteria in your mouth, it changes the pH levels, and over time can erode the enamel (the hard-outer layer of the tooth), ultimately causing tooth decay and cavities.
Xylitol kills the bacteria responsible for dental decay by up to 90%. Not only does it neutralise the plaque acids, it actually prevents them from starting in the first place, making it hard for plaque to stick to your teeth in the future.
The benefits are particularly relevant to today's eating habits because people are eating more frequently, which may seem healthier from a snacking perspective, but it actually puts teeth at a higher risk.
When used in oral care products such as sugar free gum and mints, not only will you have fresh breath but the xylitol can help change the environment in the mouth, keeping teeth healthy after eating and drinking.
Try having a piece of gum or mints with xylitol after every meal or snack, ideally 5 times a day, to protect your teeth. I recommend Peppersmith sugar-free gum and mints to my patients.
Peppersmith mints and gum are made with 100% xylitol.
They are great for protecting your teeth during the day and can help relieve a dry mouth.
They come in a variety of flavours – not just mint. Try the strawberry pastilles or my favourite, the Sicilian lemon.
It's recommend by dental professionals, including myself, and approved by the Oral Health Foundation.
They're low GI (7) & low calorie, making it suitable for diabetics as it won’t spike insulin levels.