As a parent, you may have heard of schools that give out sugar-free gum to help reduce cavities among their students. Or maybe you’ve heard about a sugar substitute that actually protects teeth. That sugar substitute is xylitol and it really does reduce the chances of cavities.

Of course, the simple act of removing sugars from a child’s diet which reduce the chances of cavities. Offering xylitol gum as a replacement to another sweet snack will lower the exposure that little teeth have to sugars, thus lowering the amount of bacteria that will be feasting between their teeth! However, xylitol is a special substitute that does more than just replace sugar.

Xylitol has been shown to be antimicrobial by lowering the ability for bacteria to stick to the teeth. If bacteria can’t stick to the teeth, then a whole string of nasty events is eliminated in the mouth. Normally, sugar-eating bacteria turn the saliva acidic for a few hours after we eat, which weakens our tooth enamel and allows cavities to start. A person who chews xylitol gum 3 to 5 times a day will have less acidic saliva. Not only is that a good sign of lowered bacteria, but teeth stay strong when our mouths have healthy, non-acidic saliva.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists “supports the use of xylitol as part of a preventive strategy aimed specifically at long term caries pathogen suppression and caries reduction in higher risk populations.” They reviewed the research and saw that xylitol sometimes is better at cavity prevention than fluoride! (But we still recommend the use of fluoride!)

If you want to use xylitol to protect your kids from future cavities, try giving them xylitol gum 3 to 5 times a day and consider using a toothpaste with xylitol in it. Remember to keep up a good brushing and flossing routine as well!

Special thanks to our blog writer Susan Akers!