Research indicates the answer is yes, as long as your chewing gum sweetened with 100 percent xylitol.

What is xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener widely used as a sugar substitute and low-calorie sweetener. Xylitol is found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, and can be extracted from various berries, oats and mushrooms, as well as fibrous material such as corn husks.

What does xylitol have to do with cavity prevention?

Xylitol has been clinically proven to reduce cavities and help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Xylitol is a natural sugar that bacteria can’t metabolize. It actually interferes with acid production by the bacteria and breaks down biofilm (dental plaque) integrity. Early studies with xylitol showed a significant reduction in plaque levels when consumed several times each day. When consumed three to five times daily, xylitol reduced plaque accumulation by 50 percent. While tooth brushing also reduces plaque by 50 percent, tooth brushing depends on the dexterity of the person holding the toothbrush. Xylitol works no matter what the dexterity. By using it daily, the first 50 percent is removed no matter what the tooth brushing skill level. While xylitol research studies do not directly compare tooth brushing with daily xylitol use, some clinicians advocate utilizing both brushing and xylitol consumption as an effective way to promote better oral hygiene.

To help prevent cavities, you need approximately six to eight grams of xylitol taken (chewed or ingested) throughout the day. If used only occasionally or just once a day, xylitol may not be effective. Try to chewing gum with xylitol three to five times a day—for a least five minutes right after meals and snacks. Between meals, chew gum, mint, or suck on products sweetened with 100 percent xylitol. Specific types of mouth rinses, gels or dry mouth sprays can also be used. Remember, for the amount of xylitol to be at decay-preventing levels, it must appear as the first ingredient on the label.

Possible Additional Health Benefits

Xylitol enhances mineral absorption in tooth enamel, increasing its strength. Used in small quantities, it also increases saliva production which can be especially beneficial for people suffering from dry mouth (xerostomia) due to illness, aging or drug side effects.

The Consumer Guide to Dentistry website indicates that xylitol has been found to increase the activity of white blood cells involved in fighting bacteria and thus may help build immunity, protect against chronic degenerative disease and have anti-aging benefits.

Are there any side effects from taking xylitol?

Xylitol has no known toxicity in humans and side effects are extremely rare; however, taking too much can lead to abdominal discomfort including bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. It would be best to introduce the substance gradually to determine appropriate tolerance levels.
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