We all know that the only tried and true method of preventing cavities is regular brushing and flossing. However, that doesn’t stop researchers and dental patients alike from seeking other “life hacks” to maintain shiny smiles. Of course, the best way to promote good oral hygiene is to control what we put in our mouths in the first place!
As consumers are becoming more health-conscious, companies are seeking alternative sweeteners to sugar. As a well-known contributor to tooth decay and other health problems, sugar is always facing new competition. For certain products like chewing gum, the American Dental Association will only award its Seal of Acceptance to sugarless varieties.
With this incentive, many chewing gum manufacturers are now using sugar substitutes to satisfy your sweet tooth (without putting holes in it!). One of the most common sugar alternatives in chewing gum is xylitol. Unlike many other sweeteners, xylitol is not artificial and can be found in a variety of plants. Many claim that it effectively prevents the growth of cavity-causing bacteria and it has quickly become a popular ingredient in products on store shelves worldwide.
However, the American Dental Association says that the benefits of xylitol may be exaggerated. In recent studies of the sweetener, there has not been enough evidence to prove that xylitol prevents tooth decay. Despite anecdotal reports of success, we can’t say for sure that this sweetener has special teeth cleaning properties.
Don’t let this leave a bad taste in your mouth—there’s still good news! All forms of sugar-free gum, including xylitol-flavored gum, are still much better for your teeth than gum with sugar. The advantages are twofold: First, oral bacteria have a harder time surviving without sugar to feed them. The other benefit of chewing sugarless gum is that it increases the flow of saliva. Saliva is essential to preventing tooth decay because it washes away food particles and remineralizes your teeth to keep them strong.
While we can’t say xylitol is a dental care savior, feel free to pick up some sugar-free gum the next time you’re out shopping—your teeth will thank you! Just remember that a sugar substitute is never a substitute for thorough brushing and flossing.