How Chewing Gum Can Help Prevent Cavities

Discovered in 1891 by German chemist Emil Fischer, Xylitol has traditionally been used as a safe sweetener or direct food additive for diabetics and people with hyperglycemia.  Due to a low glycemic index, Xylitol has little effect on blood sugar levels.

In the early 1970’s scientists found that xylitol could also provide significant dental benefits as an alternative sweetener due to its role in reducing the development of dental caries. The American Dental Association currently recognizes xylitol as an alternative to sugars and as a part of a comprehensive dental hygiene program.

Xylitol is not an artificial chemical but a naturally occurring 5 carbon sugar alcohol found in fruits such as berries and plums and many vegetables. It is even produced in small amounts (15 grams daily) by the human body during normal metabolism.

Xylitol works by stimulating the flow of saliva and keeping the pH level high enough to maintain a proper alkaline/acid balance in the mouth. This reduces the amount of time that teeth are exposed to damaging acids.  Because sugar alcohol does not ferment, it cannot be converted to acids by the bacteria found in the mouth.

Xylitol can be found in chewing gum, mints, hard candy, throat lozenges, toothpastes and mouthwashes.

Chewing gum with Xylitol should be included in a dental regimen that includes frequent fluoride use, good oral hygiene and regular dental appointments.

To most effectively prevent cavities, the gum should be chewed immediately after eating a meal or snack and after drinking a sugary beverage. Check the gum label to be sure xylitol is listed as the first ingredient. Gum that is sweetened 100% with xylitol is best.

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