If anyone told you there’s a simple, safe, good-tasting way to significantly reduce the incidence of dental cavities, you probably wouldn’t believe them.
But “not only does this method exist, it first appeared in dental and other journals in the 1970s – and there’s now no question at all that it really works,” says Dr Jonathan Wright of Nutrition & Healing.
No, it’s not that hazardous, toxic waste byproduct, fluoride.
Believe it or not, it’s a derivative of a natural, simple sugar: Xylitol.
Xylitol: A sweet but effective solution for preventing cavities
While cavities are caused by the bacteria Streptococcus mutans (S.mutans), short and long-term use of xylitol results in fewer cavities.
According to Dr Wright, Xylitol has been widely used in Finland since the sugar shortages of World War II.
In the early 70s, Finnish researchers discovered that xylitol prevents tooth decay, so they started making chewing gum containing it. They found that the S.mutans causing tooth decay fed on the xylitol, but could not break it down or successfully metabolise it.
Eventually, so much xylitol accumulates in these bacteria they get ‘indigestion’ and can’t process other food sugars into the acids that destroy tooth enamel.
According to Dr Luc Trahan, part of the faculty of dental medicine at Laval University in Quebec, as xylitol is used over time in the mouth, strains of ‘xylitol-resistant’ S.mutans start to emerge. Their numbers increase from a very few to 40% or more of the total S.mutans population.
But these ‘new’ resistant strains aren’t as bothersome and cause much less trouble with cavities.
Is xylitol safe for everyone?
According to Dr Wright, dental researchers wanted to find the best time to start children chewing xylitol gum.
In a school in Belize, they gave six groups of children six different types of gum to chew four times a day for two years – with enough on Friday to last through the weekend.
They found that at the end of the two years, the children chewing the xylitol gum had the best results in terms of incidents of tooth decay.
Five years later, researchers returned to do a follow-up study. The children who’d chewed the xylitol gum had 90% fewer cavities than the other children – without any exposure to xylitol for the five years since the original study ended.
This just proves that Xylitol’s cavity-preventing effects are nothing short of amazing.
In addition, a group of researchers led by Dr Eva Soderling reported that when a “study group” of breast-feeding mothers chewed xylitol gum starting three months after giving birth, their children developed less growth of the S.mutans over time. The children themselves were never directly exposed to the xylitol.
Chewing gum containing xylitol is available at your local health shop and even at your local supermarket. Just be sure to check that it actually contains xylitol to prevent those cavities.