As parents, we do our best to keep our kids healthy. That includes their oral health. And now that your kids have a great brushing and flossing routine established, are you wondering if there’s more you can do for preventing cavities in your kids? Dr. Kristi Parker says, yes! We’re all for preventative tooth care. One thing you can do to boost cavity prevention is to include xylitol in your child’s daily oral care tool kit.
But what is xylitol? Here are five fast facts from us at The Beach House Pediatric Dentistry about this sugar alternative that’s actually good for teeth!
Xylitol Doesn’t Increase Cavity-Causing Oral Bacteria
Unlike regular sugar and sugar alternatives that spike oral bacteria and acids after eating, Xylitol doesn’t. In fact, it’s considered helpful in preventing cavities in kids.
How does xylitol actually prevent cavities? Xylitol doesn’t get metabolized by your oral bacteria the way other sugars do, so there are less decay-causing bacteria in your mouth. Xylitol also acts as an antibacterial agent in cavity prevention, reducing plaque formation and bacteria sticking to your teeth and gums.
In a year-long study, a xylitol syrup was given to three groups of children 9-15 months old. Each group had a different concentration of xylitol. The result? The children who received the highest dose at 8 grams/day showed 70% fewer decayed teeth than the lowest concentration group of 2.7 grams/day.
Xylitol is A Naturally-Occuring Sugar
Like regular sugar, xylitol is a naturally-occurring sweetener. It’s a natural sugar alcohol and prebiotic found in fruits and vegetables like strawberries, raspberries, mushrooms, and cauliflower. But the xylitol we consume as a sweetener is commercially made from corn cobs and birch bark. Xylitol has a slight mint flavor, which is why you’ll find it as a sweetener in “sugar-free” chewing gum and mints.
Xylitol Contains Fewer Calories Than Regular Sugar
Since xylitol is a refined sweetener, it doesn’t contain any vitamins, minerals or protein. So your kids will still have to eat their fair share of nutritious foods to encourage healthy teeth from the inside out! However, it’s nice to know that xylitol contains 40% fewer calories than sugar.
Including Xylitol During Pregnancy Can Result in Healthier Outcomes For Their Kids
You’re likely familiar with the idea that what mom consumes during pregnancy has in utero and long term health effects on her baby. With xylitol, this impact is positive: research in Malawi showed that mothers with better oral health from chewing xylitol gum were less likely to have preterm babies. In the study, Malawi’s high rate of early births dropped by 24% with the introduction of less gum disease reducing xylitol. One of the reasons for this study? Previous research had found a link between gum disease and preterm/low weight delivery.
Another study showed that chewing xylitol gum when pregnant was linked to cavity prevention in their kids. The kids born from moms in the xylitol gum group had fewer cavities and ear infections during their baby and toddler years up to age four.
So Xylitol is Safe for Kids, Right?
Some parents have asked us, “Is xylitol safe for kids?” Rest assured, xylitol has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1963. Plus, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry supports the use of xylitol for preventing cavities in kids.
Introduce xylitol to benefit your kids’ oral health — and help increase the chances of cavity-free checkups when you come in to see us at our Missouri City office. Consider dental health items like toothpaste with xylitol for your kids, mouthwashes, sprays, or special xylitol mints or gum. We even have xylitol lollipops at our office if your child wants to try one!
You can also consider using xylitol in place of sugar when you bake and cook. It’s a simple 1:1 swap, unless you’re needing to melt the sugar in your recipe. Xylitol doesn’t caramelize the same as sugar so you, unfortunately, can’t use it for making caramel sauce or topping that fancy creme brulee!
The Bottom Line
Xylitol has been shown to help in cavity prevention. So with these 5 fast facts about xylitol in mind, go ahead and confidently add it for your kids’ oral health.
If you’re not sure about a xylitol product, feel free to get in touch with your Missouri City pediatric dentist, Dr. Parker, for expert insight.