What is xylitol?
Xylitol is a natural sweetener proven to prevent caries upon regular long-term consumption. This prophylactic effect of xylitol is primarily caused by its influence on Streptococcus Mutans – bacteria that cause caries.
Naturally, xylitol can be primarily found in fruits, but also in other plants; as a sweetener, it is primarily synthesized from a substance found in maize fibres. It is used both in food and in cosmetics, and is especially abundant in all kinds of oral hygiene products.
How does xylitol influence microbes of the oral cavity?
It has been scientifically proven that xylitol interferes with the metabolism of SM bacteria, inhibits the growth of all caries-producing SM strains, and reduces their level in mouth’s microflora(1,2).
Using xylitol with food
Consuming xylitol during and after a meal keeps the bacteria in the mouth busy while starving them at the same time, since they are not capable of digesting xylitol. Xylitol also increases the amount of amino acids found in dental plaque and saliva, so that the acid produced by the bacteria is neutralized(3).
Additionally, by forming complexes with calcium ions, xylitol also participates in the process of remineralisation of the natural tooth enamel(4).
Xylitol contributes to oral hygiene
Removal of the dental plaque from teeth is an important part of oral hygiene. Dental hygiene as a whole benefits from xylitol’s antibacterial plaque-reducing influence(4).
Xylitol is not a substitute for good oral hygiene habits.
- Lee YE, Choi YH, Jeong SH, Kim HS, Lee SH, Song KB (2009). Morphological changes in Streptococcus mutans after chewing gum containing xylitol for twelve months. Curr Microbiol 58:332-337
- Kakuta H, Iwami Y, Mayanagi H, Takahashi N (2003). Xylitol inhibition of acid production and growth of mutans Streptococci in the presence of various dietary sugars under strictly anaerobic conditions. Caries Res 37:404-409.
- Mäkinen KK (1985). New biochemical aspects of sweeteners. Int Dent J 35:23-35.
- Mäkinen KK (2010). Sugar alcohols, caries incidence, and remineralization of caries lesions: a literature review. Int J Dent 2010:981072