What is Xylitol?
Times have really changed. When I was younger my dentist never advised me to chew gum unless I wanted a sore jaw and lots of cavities. While it still holds true that chewing gum can lead to muscle soreness in some people, the benefits of using xylitol containing chewing gum is substantial.
Xylitol was used outside of the United States in the 1970’s and it took over thirty years to bring its benefits into products in the United States. Now it is available in gum, mints, tablets, mouthwash, toothpaste, and much more. It is also a substance not derived in a laboratory, but from trees.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry supports the use of xylitol as a cavity prevention strategy in children and new mothers. Studies have shown that chewing xylitol after meals increases saliva content, which decreases the amount of sugar remaining in our mouth. On top of this children chewing xylitol after meals and snacks will reduce the amount of plaque that remains on their teeth and also lower the number of cavity producing bacteria in the mouth. In addition, studies show that mothers who use xylitol gum, both they and their children show less cavity causing bacteria and the transmission of that bacteria from mother to child takes much longer.
While this is a great preventive strategy, new studies are just beginning to show that chewing xylitol containing gum can decrease the amount of ear infections children get. Due to xylitols ability to create an environment in the mouth that is difficult for bacteria it also can make it difficult for bacteria to get into the inner ear.
Most grocery stores in the area have chewing gum that contains xylitol. So next time you are at the store waiting in line to check out, look at the chewing gum and try a pack!