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Sweet news: natural sugar Xylitol fights tooth decay

Dec 16, 2011

They fight fire with fire, don't they? Dentists are learning that tooth decay can be fought with a natural sweetner found in trees, fruits and vegetables.

Xylitol, a sugar alcohol that is a derivative of xylose, is proving to be a simple solution for tooth decay in children. But not only can xylitol aid in preventing tooth decay, it reportedly helps recreate tooth enamel, repairing earlier damage caused by sugar, or sucrose.

The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) reported last year that an estimated 42 percent of kids ages 2 to 11 have had decay in their primary teeth, and approximately 32 percent of children ages 9 to 11 have decay in their primary teeth. Why so much decay in kids' teeth? Sugary foods, sticky candies, soda drinks and even sports drinks have a high acidic pH and sugar content, the AGD reports.

Problems arise when mouth bacteria consume the sugars we eat and gain energy for up to 30 minutes after eating and drinking. The bacteria multiply and make acids that wear down tooth enamel.

Xylitol breaks down differently and helps keep a neutral pH balance in the mouth. Because Xylitol also prevents sticky material that energize bacteria from clinging to the teeth, it provides another level of protection. This is how Xylitol fights tooth decay, but how does it help restore tooth enamel?

This natural sugar is more alkaline than sugar influenced saliva. Xylitol can raise the amino acids and amonia levels in saliva and plaque, thereby increasing the plaque pH. When the plaque pH rises to a certain level, the calcium and phosphate salts in saliva move into the softened enamel, causing it to harden again.

If kids only consumed sugar twice a day, their natural saliva would be enough to counter sugar's negative effects. But in this age of supersized soft drinks and sugary sweet treats, saliva by itself isn't worth a spit (pun intended) in combatting oral bacteria. 

Xylitol is all-natural and is safe to use. In fact, it is found in the human liver, with the average adult liver producing 15 grams of Xylitol a day.

The natural sugar can be found in candies, mints, and certain brands of chewing gum. Research suggests that patients should consume between six to 10 grams of Xylitol per day, or three to five servings. Balanced servings at regular intervals are recommended because research also suggests that the more frequent Xylitol interacts with oral bacteria, the better it can fight cavities.

For more information, go to http://Xylitol.org

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