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Xylitol-The Good Sugar 

Xylitol is a natural sweetener made from corn cobs and corn stalks.  In some countries it is made from birch bark.  It is not "created" in a lab like most artificial sweeteners.  Our bodies make Xylitol.  Most sugars are 6-Carbon, bind well with bacteria and produce acid within seconds of consumption.  Bacteria and an acidic oral environment (low pH) is the recipe for decay.  Xylitol is different.  It is a 5-Carbon sugar that does not bind with bacteria.  Less acid is produced because of a reduced bacterial population.  When used regularly Xylitol reduces decay.  It minimizes the bacteria and acid.  Xylitol is available in many forms-the most common for dental purposes are mints, chewing gum and toothpaste.  There is a spray especially useful in treating "dry mouth."

STRIVE FOR FIVE.   The recommended amount of Xylitol is 6-10 grams spread throughout the day.  Everyone can benefit from Xylitol.  Teeth are especially susceptible to decay when they first erupt.  Xylitol is handed out to military personnel in the MRE's (meals ready to eat).  People who lack sufficient saliva usually have high levels of bacteria and a low pH which can significantly increase the risk of decay.  Regular doses of Xylitol help minimize bacteria and raise the oral pH. Each piece of "Spry" gum contains .72 grams and the mints are .5 grams.

A potential side effect of Xylitol is that it can have a laxative effect if too much is ingested.  This is because Xylitol is digested as a fiber.  Xylitol can be harmful to pets, so keep it out of their reach!

Other countries are way ahead of the United States on this.  Russian children are given "eruption juice" (made with Xylitol) when teeth are erupting.  Native Americans used birch wood as chew sticks and baby rattles.  The people of Finland have incorporated Xylitol into their diets for years, and have the lowest decay rate in the world.

Xylitol products can be found at most health food stores or can be ordered online.  It is not in regular sugarless gum in a significant dose. For more information on Xylitol or to order online go to:  www.xclear.com.

 Written by Monica Bryant, RDH from notes taken at a course given by Tricha O'Hehir, RDH, MS given at Yankee Dental Congress, Boston MA, February 2013.