How would you like to eat candy and not get cavities? Imagine your little ones eating gummi bears and lollipops with no worries of bad dental check-ups. Interested? There is a solution: xylitol.
Xylitol is a natural sugar found in plants such as bamboo, grass, hardwood trees, fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, and coconut shells. It is not a sugar substitute. It is safe to consume and is even produced in the liver.
While sugar feeds the bacteria in our mouths causing acid production and more plaque build-up, xylitol starves the bacteria eliminating aced production. Xylitol penetrates Strep mutans (cavity-causing bacteria), interfering with the growth of the bacteria. This action greatly reduces cavity formation. In addition, xylitol can buffer an already acidic mouth by neutralizing the acids.
Unfortunately, cavity formation is on the rise due to children drinking less milk and more juice, soda, energy drinks, canned tea, and bottled water without fluoride. Fortunately, three to five servings of xylitol a day greatly reduces the risk of cavity formation.
Xylitol is a benefit to people having diabetes as it doesn’t raise blood sugar to unsafe levels, and it reduces the level of insulin needed. An added plus, xylitol has fewer calories than sugar.
Another benefit of xylitol is the ability to reduce sinus infections and sinus inflammation due to allergies. When added to saline solutions, cleansing of the sinuses is more productive since it thins the mucus.
In addition, xylitol can help reduce ear infections in children. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the eustachian tubes designed to drain fluids from the ears. The bacteria can grow to the point of causing swelling of the eardrums. Since xylitol interferes with the growth of bacteria, it can reduce the incidence of childhood ear infections.
Xylitol is available in health food stores and can be used to replace sugar in non-baked desserts, sweetening tea, cereal, etc. Since xylitol doesn’t caramelize when heated, it may not produce desired results in baking. It is found in sugar-free gum such as Trident, as well as sugar-free mints and candy, Squiggle toothpaste, nasal washes, and Spiffies wipes for babies’ and toddlers’ teeth and gums.