Xylitol – Reducing Cavities
Tooth decay remains to the most common dental problem among children, yet it is preventable. Acid is formed when the bacteria Streptococcus mutans in the mouth combine with carbohydrates and sugar. This leads to the formation of cavities. When cavity formed in primary or permanent teeth is left untreated, they become painful and cause a negative impact to the functionality and aesthetics of the teeth.
Even after following a good oral care at home and visiting the dentist regularly, few children fall prey to cavities. It has been recognized by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) that xylitol has the benefits to reduce cavities.
What is xylitol?
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol. It is equal to sugar in terms of volume and sweetness. Many fruits and vegetables like corn, mushrooms, berries and lettuces contain xylitol. An intake of 4 to 20 grams divided into 3-5 servings of xylitol a day helps reduce tooth decay and cavities by a good percentage. But it is a challenging task to make children eat a decent amount of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
To overcome such challenges, a parent can make use of xylitol that comes in different forms in the market. Xylitol is also available as a sugar substitute, gum, and as a concentrate in varieties of healthy foods. Everyday consumables like toothpaste, mouthwash, sprays, mint and candies come with xylitol which comes with a pleasant taste that kids enjoy.
How xylitol works
There are various reasons why a child’s tooth falls prey to decay and cavities. Some of them are dietary habits, oral care followed at home, tooth resistance to plaque, carbohydrate and sucrose consumption and the flow rate of saliva.
When harmful bacteria come in touch with carbohydrates and sugar, acids are produced. Every time the child consumes something sugary, these acids attack the sensitive tooth enamel. Xylitol prevents bacteria from growing and helps neutralize the acids. This means the quality of the bacteria changes and survives less on the teeth, destruction of tooth enamel decreases and the risk of cavity attack reduces. Xylitol helps encourages saliva production, which helps in removing plaque, bacteria and food particles from the teeth.
When xylitol is used along with a healthy diet; it helps protect the tooth enamel, remineralizes the child’s teeth with moderate to high risk of decay and minimizes new cavity formation. This helps reduce the number of cavities in children by 70%. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has certified xylitol to be safe.
Right time to start xylitol
Streptococcus mutans can be passed from parents to newborn babies and because xylitol cannot be given very young children, infants can benefit from maternal chewing. Mothers of children between 3 months and 2 years who consumed xylitol gum a couple of times every day have helped protect their child from tooth decay until they have reached the age of 5. This way, xylitol helped reduce the transmission significantly from mother to child. A toddler can consume xylitol as a sugar substitute or eat fruits and vegetables which are natural byproducts. Xylitol gum can be given to older children to reduce the risk of new cavities.
Xylitol infused products are easily available in health stores and online. The parent must ensure that xylitol is listed as the first ingredient. This way, xylitol content is at a high level enough to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Also, it is important to note that excessive xylitol consumption does not give more protection to the teeth. With the help of the dentist’s prescription, daily intake helps amplify the efforts to reduce cavity and the effects last for a very long time.