Ten years ago I went into Whole Foods looking for xylitol chewing gum. I think I paid seven dollars for one small little package. It was pretty fringe back then, but now xylitol gum is readily available on the market. If you chew gum, chew gum with xylitol as the sweetener. If you have a history of dental cavities and no history of jaw pain, consider picking up the habit of chewing xylitol gum.
Before I explain why, first, here’s a little bit about how dental cavities work.
What Causes Dental Cavities
Dental Cavities in teeth are caused by acid. You eat sugar, and then certain bacteria that can live in your mouth break that sugar down and convert it into acids. Those acids cause little holes to form, and as the process repeats itself the holes can get bigger and bigger over time. It takes the right kind of bacteria and the right environment for everything to work to cause tooth decay. You might have a friend that eats garbage all the time and has never had a cavity. Fortunately for them, the environment and type of bacteria in their mouth just isn’t right to cause cavities. For many people, unfortunately, the environment is perfect and they get a lot of cavities.
So why not just kill the bacteria that causes cavities? Well, they’re working on that, but it isn’t easy. One of the best things we have right now is to cut off the food supply to the bacteria, and that’s where xylitol comes in. When xylitol is broken down, it doesn’t convert into acids. It also doesn’t yield any energy for the bacteria that just ate it, which makes it hard for them to proliferate. Over time, xylitol can decrease the amount of harmful, cavity causing bacteria that live in a person’s mouth.
One note of caution: xylitol is toxic to dogs, so be careful with your four legged friends, don’t let them have any gum!
In summary, chewing xylitol gum doesn’t contribute to a person getting cavities and it can actually help prevent cavities. We always give our patients here in San Antonio a sample of xylitol gum when they come to their dental check up so they can try it out. It’s readily available in almost any store that sells gum. Tell us what you think about it.