Not a One-Hit-Wonder
In order for xylitol to be effective, it must come in contact with your teeth several times a day for at least six months. Occasionally taking xylitol in large doses will not reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. The amount of xylitol needed to reduce dental plaque varies according to each study, but in general, it takes approximately 6-10 grams of xylitol to have an anti-cavity effect. It's recommended that you use xylitol products three to five times per day for up to a year to get results.
It may sound like a long time, but for most, chewing gum or sucking on flavorful mints isn't much of a chore. And it's definitely worth it -- some studies show that a long-term xylitol regimen continues to prevent cavities even after the xylitol is discontinued. And as an added bonus, xylitol can also help eliminate bad breath and remineralize tooth enamel.
Coming to a Store Near You
Until recently, most xylitol-containing products could only be found online, but commercial products are starting to catch on. You can now find xylitol in some of your favorite gums and mints at your local market.
While most of these products contain 1-2 grams of xylitol per serving, you should check the label to balance your intake. The amount of xylitol in each product varies, and some use other sweeteners in combination with xylitol. Although xylitol has been recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration, too much xylitol may cause intestinal problems, including cramping, bloating and diarrhea.
Make Xylitol Part of Your Oral Hygiene Routine
The next time you give your child a piece of sugarless gum or candy, try one sweetened with xylitol.
Xylitol is a great sugar substitute for children who are prone to cavities as well as those who have a difficult time taking care of their teeth, including seniors and special needs patients. Regardless, xylitol candy and gum should not replace the need for regular oral hygiene. Even with the proper amounts of xylitol, brushing, flossing and regular dental visits are necessary to prevent tooth decay. If you have concerns about cavities, speak to your dentist about how xylitol might work for you. Need help finding one?