Health & Safety

May 4, 2012

Dental benefits for use of natural sweetener

by Senior Airman Ana King
56th Dental Squadron

We have all been through them – those annual dental check-ups. While waiting for your name to be called you try to do a brief recollection of your oral hygiene routine. It may go a little something like this: brushed teeth, check; flossed this morning, check.

But did you know that oral hygiene is not all about brushing and flossing? Although those are key points to healthy teeth, our diet also plays a huge role.

One of the largest elements of our diet is sugar intake. Regulating sugar intake is important for general health and largely that of teeth. But for many, sugar is a normal part of the diet, and folks may not realize the negative side effects.

However, there is a healthy alternative to sugar called Xylitol. Not only does it look and taste the same, it also helps in reducing the risks for cavities. It is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally and can be found in fibrous fruits and vegetables as well as in the body. More importantly, Xylitol is a natural sweetener. At its purest state, Xylitol both looks and tastes like sugar. The benefit of using Xylitol as a sugar substitute is that it has been proven in the reduction of tooth decay.

The difference between ordinary sugar and Xylitol that makes this possible is found in one of the processes that assist in tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth consumes ordinary sugar, also known as sucrose. The sucrose fuels the bacteria on teeth causing germs to multiply and start acid attacks. If repeated, the introduction of sucrose to bacteria result in more frequent acid attacks against tooth enamel, lasting about 30 minutes if not longer. During these acid attacks the bacteria is constantly working toward penetrating the enamel. The ultimate outcome is decay and weakness. Since Xylitol does not break down like ordinary sugar, the bacteria cannot use it as a viable source of energy. The pathogens’ inability to use Xylitol makes bacteria incapable of multiplying and causing an acid attack. Fewer acid attacks on teeth means less chance of decay.

So why use Xylitol? It’s safe and requires less than 15 grams per day to prevent tooth decay. It tastes great so using it in a daily routine is not a chore, and it’s 100-percent natural. It also helps lower the risk of tooth decay without forfeiting the sweet sugary taste.

So how do you get Xylitol? It is found in many forms and can be a substitute for sugar. Xylitol can be found in toothpaste, nasal spray, chewing gum, mints, candy and as a 100-percent pure sweetener. So next time you are purchasing a favorite toothpaste or chewing gum check the list of ingredients. Does it include Xylitol?

As for purchasing products containing larger concentrations of Xylitol, such as sweeteners or sugar substitutes, it can be found online or talk to a dentist.




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