There are less than 500 words in the entire English language that begin with the letter, “X.” Yet, you still may not be familiar with the word xylitol. If you check the ingredients of your candy, gum, or sugar-free foods, you might find it there. This tooth-friendly sugar substitute is found in more and more products each year, and dentists could not be happier. Keep reading to find out how xylitol can improve your preventive dentistry routine.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally derived sweetener. It is found in the fibrous parts of plants. For this reason, it does not break down the same way that other sugars do, during digestion. This means xylitol is a lower calorie alternative for the weight-conscious. Unlike other artificial sugars, xylitol doesn’t adversely impact oral health.
How Does Xylitol Impact Oral Health?
Sugar and other artificial sweeteners are broken down by oral bacteria to create large quantities of highly acidic plaque. During meals, the saliva in the mouth is working overtime to neutralize plaque acids, but when the acidity of the foods and plaque outweigh the neutrality of saliva, your teeth are under attack. Xylitol is a basal nutrient, so when it is broken down in the mouth, it actually helps the saliva neutralize other acids. That’s why you may have heard a dentist recommend chewing xylitol gum following meals.
Keeping your Smile Healthy
Proper in-office and at-home preventive dentistry is essential, even if you manage to swap out all your sugary treats with xylitol products. Keep the following oral hygiene tips in mind to maximize your at-home oral health routine:
- Time your brushing sessions. Make sure you brush for at least two minutes, as studies indicate this is the minimum amount of time necessary to ensure you’ve completely removed plaque.
- Brush at least twice a day. If you decide to pump up your hygiene routine by brushing between meals, give your teeth a thirty minute break between eating and brushing. Your tooth enamel is at its weakest directly following a meal.
- Floss every day to remove plaque between teeth. Plaque can begin hardening into calculus (tartar) in as little as 12 hours, so daily flossing is essential to remove plaque between teeth before it hardens in place.
- Visit your trusted dentist at least two times each year to ensure any dental concerns are diagnosed and treated in the earliest possible stages.
Meet Dr. Miller
At Valley View Dental, the St. Peter dental practice of Jennifer Miller, DDS, we are passionate about helping patients achieve and maintain their healthiest smiles. If you want to learn more about xylitol, tooth-friendly foods, or how best to care for your smile, give us a call. One of our friendly team members will be happy to answer your questions or schedule an appointment for you to visit our St. Peter dental office. Check our blog regularly to learn more about the dentistry services we provide and how to keep your smile healthy for life.