Everyone has bacteria in their mouth.
The sugars and starches in the foods you eat feed the bacteria, allowing them to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The breakdown of enamel can lead to tooth decay and cavities. The good news is that researchers have found that xylitol can make it harder for bacteria to adhere to the teeth.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that is used in place of sugar. It’s just as sweet as sugar but has 33 percent fewer calories. It can be used in meals for people with diabetes, by those sensitive to sugar and by people interested in reducing their added sugar intake.
Researchers conducted a study with three groups of people to find out how xylitol works. The first group chewed a standard sorbitol-sweetened gum. The second group chewed no gum, and the third group chewed a xylitol-sweetened gum. After three months, the group who had chewed the xylitol-sweetened gum had the least amount of bacteria in their mouths.1
Most stores now offer gums with xylitol, but they’re often combined with other sweeteners. These gums still provide benefits, but experts say it’s best to chew gum with xylitol as the only sweetener.
- If you love chewing gum, make sure it’s a sugar-free variety.
- Sugar-free gum made with xylitol can help fight cavities.
- The best time to chew gum is 20 minutes after eating or drinking.
- Chewing sugar-free gum increases saliva flow in the mouth, which helps wash away new and existing bacteria in the mouth.
This information is available to download as an oral health flier.
1 Hildebrandt GH, Sparks BS, “Maintaining Mutans Streptococci Suppression: With Xylitol Chewing Gum,” Journal of the American Dental Association 131, no. 7 (2000): 909-916.
2 American Dental Association, web.