The Amazing Xylitol

As a part of my license retention, continuing education hours are needed each year. In recent months, I attended a class which spoke, in part, about xylitol. In a previous post, I mentioned xylitol, yet from another speaker at a continuing education class. There seems to be a common theme about this xylitol business. So what's the big deal?

Xylitol was first discovered in Finland. During WWII, Finland chose not to participate in the war and closed it's boarders. Because of this, Finland was cut off by the outside world. Since the country had to use its own resources, they extracted sugar from birch trees. When the war was over, dentists soon realized the children in Finland had very little tooth decay.

The sugars extracted in the birch trees was named xylitol. Xylitol is in all fruits and vegetables. As a matter of fact, our own bodies produce about a tablespoon a day. It is to plants what glucose is to humans. Today, it's found in sugar-free gums, candy, and toothpastes. This product is different from the other sugars in that bacteria (all Strep and Yeast) cannot digest it, so there is a reduction in plaque and biofilm in the mouth with using it frequently. Sucrose is a 6-carbon chain that is taken in by the bacteria, metabolized, and used for energy. Xylitol is a 5-carbon chain, so bacteria pumps it in thinking its time to eat, but soon realize they’ve made a mistake. The bacteria uses up all its energy trying to pump it out.

Marketed a sugar substitute, it is not calorie free. It has a glycemic value of 7 and has 40% less calories than sugar. This is good news for diabetics and those watching their calorie intake. Xylitol has been used in many areas from fighting tooth decay to sinus infections. Exposure times are key though. In order to get the maximum benefit from xylitol, multiple exposures throughout the day must be made. The bacteria is hungry, and feeding it on a regular basis will decrease overall oral plaque by 70%.

You will want to use products that are 100% sweetened with xylitol. They can be found in your local health food store or on-line. Other products containing xylitol can be purchased in retail stores, but there is not enough of the substance to really make a difference. If going to the health food store to purchase 100% xylitol gum is out, then purchase Ice Breakers gum. It has the most xylitol than any of the other gums.

So here's the instructions on caries prevention in children:

• In the morning before school, chew 2 pieces of gum after brushing teeth. • Place one packet of Xylosweet (4 grams) in a water bottle at room temperature and pack for lunch. • Give the child either 2 mints or 5-6 Sparx candies to have after lunch. • Give the child 2 pieces of gum to chew when they get home from school. • Give the child 5-6 pieces of Sparx candies or 2 mints after tooth brushing at bedtime.

I personally have tried all the flavors and find them to be satisfactory. I have a jar of the gum on my kitchen counter and my family (throughout the day) will periodically reach in a grab a couple of pieces. This is NOT recreational gum. The flavor only lasts about 10 minutes. This gum is used to help keep the oral flora healthy and prevent tooth decay by eliminating as many Strep-bacteria as possible.


Look for future posts for specifics on how to use xylitol for sinus problems, dry mouth, and other uses.

Health-bite: 3-5 exposures of xylitol to prevent tooth decay