Dental caries it the most chronic disease affecting mankind and the medical field is constantly researching ways to prevent and treat the disease. In recent years, xylitol has been found to be promising in reducing dental caries and even reversing the process of early caries. This blog aims to shed a little light on the role and effects of various types of xylitol on dental caries and oral hygiene of an individual.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring five-carbon sugar that is currently approved for use in foods, pharmaceuticals, and oral health products. It is found naturally in various trees, fruits, and vegetables. Since a study conducted in Turku, Finland, evaluating the effectiveness of xylitol on dental plaque reduction, xylitol has been extensively researched and globally accepted as a natural sweetener approved by the FDA and the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry. Certain countries such as Finland have national programs promoting the use of xylitol chewing gum among children in an effort to reduce dental caries. Xylitol has been found to have properties that reduce levels of caries-causing bacteria (Mutans Streptococci) in plaque and saliva. Xylitol achieves this by disrupting the energy production process by Mutans Streptococci, leading to futile energy cycle and cell death. It also reduces the adhesion of these microorganisms to the tooth surface and reduces their acid production potential.
Chewing gum has been the predominant modality for xylitol delivery in clinical studies as well as commercially. Studies that have utilized xylitol-containing mints and hard candies have shown them to be as effective as xylitol-containing chewing gum. The American Academy of Paediatrics, however, does not recommend the use of chewing gum, mints, or hard candy by children less than four years of age due to the risk of choking. A randomized trial of xylitol syrup (eight grams/day) reduced early childhood caries by 50-70% in children 15 to 25 months of age and another study showed that gum or lozenges consumed by children at a five grams total dose per day at about age 10 resulted in a 35-60% reduction in tooth decay. Xylitol containing gummy bears, other confections, and even milk has been studied as delivery vehicles, but they are neither well established scientifically nor available commercially at present. Studies using toothpaste formulations with 10% xylitol have shown a reduction in MS levels and caries in children.
Xylitol is safe for children when consumed in therapeutic doses for dental caries prevention. Common side effects that may occur are gas and osmotic diarrhea. These symptoms usually occur at higher dosages and will subside once the xylitol is stopped. To minimize gas and diarrhea, xylitol should be introduced slowly, over a week or more, to acclimatize the body to the polyol.
Currently, commercially available xylitol-containing chewing gum, mints, energy bars, nasal sprays, and oral hygiene products may not contain the necessary therapeutic level, xylitol as the only sweetener, or adequate labeling. This makes the dosing difficult to control. At Pe’Teeth dental studio, we suggest a specially formulated gel that makes the application safe and easy. This gel does not contain any preservatives, detergents, abrasives, colourants, flavourings or harmful chemicals. 1-2 drops can be applied to a finger brush or toothbrush and applied to the teeth 3-5 times a day. There is no need to spit or rinse and the gel is safe to swallow. This gel can be used on babies before teeth erupt to pregnant mothers to reduce the post-birth transmission of caries-causing bacteria. The gel has a sweet taste that toddlers love!