We have always been taught that candy and sugars are bad for your teeth and will lead to cavities. This has not changed. Traditional sugar can definitely lead to tooth decay when not used in moderation and when homecare is not up to par. However, there is a new sugar substitute called xylitol that does not lead to tooth decay. It is an all natural substance that is commonly derived from renewable resources like corn cobs. Even more encouraging than the fact that it is does not cause cavities is that research has shown it may even help fight tooth decay.
One of the best applications we have found so far for xylitol is for helping patients who have reduced saliva flow. There are many medications that reduce the amount of saliva produced and can even alter the cavity fighting properties of your saliva. To compensate for the dry mouth feeling, people will often use candy to stimulate saliva. Unfortunately, this can lead to cavities because of the sugar present in the candy. This is where the xylitol candy can prove so useful. People can still use candy to stimulate saliva flow, but not have the negative effects brought on by traditional sugars.
There are also a number of different types of xylitol products. There are hard candies, gum, simple sweetener, toothpastes, gel and even rinses. So far, the best results we have been through using the hard candies. There is a higher concentration of xylitol in the candy and the prolonged exposure of the candy in the mouth has proved to be more effective.
There is still more to be learned about the potential benefits of xylitol vs. sugar, but so far we have been pleased with what we have seen. While I don’t believe it will ever replace fluoride as a powerful cavity fighting tool, I think it can be an excellent adjunct to good homecare if used properly. Feel free to contact us about how it may be helpful for you and go to www.xylitol.org for more information.
Lee T. Brown, DDS
Brown and Kupper, DDS Inc.