Is Sugar Always Bad for Teeth? That Depends…

Eating too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, but it can be difficult to find snacks or cook without sugar. However, there is an all-natural sweetener that can help clean teeth and still satisfy your sweet tooth. Here’s how sugar can lead to cavities, and why xylitol is a sugar substitute you should know about.

Sugar Fuels Cavities 

Sugar feeds the harmful bacteria on your teeth, and creates acid that erodes enamel. This causes plaque and ultimately cavities, which is why you should limit the number of sugary foods and drinks your child consumes.  

Before buying your children snacks, check the back of the package for the amount of sugar contained in the snack. Try to avoid sugary drinks like soda, fruit juice and sports drinks, all of which are notoriously high in sugar. It can be hard to find packaged snacks without a lot of sugar, so you may consider adding more fruits and vegetables to your family’s diet. This can help cut a lot of sugar out of your overall diet, and improve your oral health.  

Xylitol is a Sweetener, but Nothing Like Sugar

Xylitol is a lot like sugar, but it’s actually very different in some very important ways. In fact, Xylitol has the sweet benefits of traditional sugar, but it doesn’t have the negative effects on teeth like sugar.  

Microscopic Differences 

Sugar comes from the sugar cane plant, and is genetically different from xylitol. Xylitol naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables, and its genetic makeup is much healthier for teeth than traditional sugar. The proteins and carbohydrates in traditional sugar fuel cavities, while the genetic makeup of xylitol prevents this from occurring.  By preventing acidic attacks on teeth, xylitol can actually help strengthen enamel and prevent future tooth decay. 

Xylitol Stimulates Saliva Production

One way the mouth fights cavities is by producing saliva to wash away food debris, and restore its proper Ph balance. Xylitol naturally stimulates saliva that aids in overall oral health. Increased saliva can help prevent bad breath by eliminating dry mouth, and prevent prolonged exposure to acid and sugar caused by food debris. 

Try Xylitol

Xylitol comes in granules that resemble traditional sugar, and it is incredibly easy to substitute in place of sugar. You can buy xylitol “sugar” from health food stores and natural grocers, usually in the baking aisle. Try substituting xylitol for sugar in your recipes, and see if the taste is affected. By incorporating more xylitol – and reducing your sugar intake – you can gain vital oral health benefits. 

Have You Tried Xylitol Gum?

A good way to try xylitol is by getting gum sweetened with xylitol. Try chewing it 15 minutes after a meal to improve your saliva production, and naturally clean your teeth. Xylitol gum with help you rid your mouth of food debris, and combat bad breath. You can find xylitol gum in most pharmacieshealth food stores, or online.

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By maintaining a healthier diet, you can help your child prevent cavities and promote a healthier smile. You should also encourage them to brush twice per day for two minutes at a time, and floss once daily.

Additionallyit’s important to visit our office every six months so that we can keep an eye on the state of your child’s smile and determine a treatment plan that keeps them cavity-free. 

Xylitol Is A Sugar Substitute That Can Reduce Cavities

Xylitol can prevent cavities
It’s no secret that sugar is bad for teeth.  It gives bacteria nourishment and causes plaque to build up.  Because of this, sugar substitutes are always in high demand, especially ones with additional health benefits.  That’s why xylitol (pronounced ‘zeye-luh-tall), a natural sugar substitute derived primarily from plants, is so attractive for those looking for a sweet alternative that’s actually good for teeth.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) has recognized the benefits of xylitol for preventing cavities.  Studies show that it reduces plaque, is antimicrobial, and lowers enamel attacking acid.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that’s found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables.  It can often be extracted from berries, oats, and mushrooms and fibers like birch. Animal studies have found that xylitol had nearly nonexistent side effects compared to other artificial sweeteners.  It also has an extremely low caloric value compared to other natural sugars.

Where can I get xylitol?

Xylitol is currently available in mints, chewable tablets, toothpaste, mouthwash and chewing gum! Chewing sugarless gum is specially beneficial as the act of chewing increases the production of saliva in your mouth which helps neutralize acid as it washes it away.  While chewing gum can never replace brushing and flossing, the American Dental Association indicates that 20 minutes of chewing sugarless gum after meals can help prevent tooth decay.

Want more information on the benefits of Xylitol for healthy teeth? Check out this info sheet from the AAPD!

Chewing Gum: Facts, Fun and Your Teeth

Chewing ghum and your teeth

The History of Chewing Gum

Chewing gum has a long and fascinating history.  For 5,000 years humans have enjoyed chewing on bark tar, resin from the mastic tree and other plants and grasses.  American Indians made a form of gum from spruce tree sap.  But for most of our history, we have used chicle, a natural gum made from trees in a similar way that natural rubber is produced.  Political reform in Guatemala during the 1950’s meant that big chewing gum companies like Wrigley no longer had access to chicle, so by the mid 1960’s most gum was produced from a butadiene-based synthetic rubber.

Will swallowed gum harm me?

Gum made from synthetic rubber may not sound too appetizing, however gum is generally harmless to your body.  Have you ever heard people claim that swallowed gum will stay in your stomach for “seven years” or that it will “stick to your lungs”? While it is usually a good idea to simply spit out used gum, only a very large quantity of gum or gum that is swallowed with food or foreign objects poses any risk to blocking your intestinal tract.  Your teeth, however, may be another story.

Gum and your teeth.

Because many types of gum contain sugar as a primary ingredient, frequent gum use can be harmful to your teeth.  Sugar feeds the bacteria that cause plaque, which in turn hammers away at the enamel on your teeth.  A lot of sugary gum means that bacteria are getting a lot of food to grow which can lead to a lot more plaque.  Additionally, while many people chew gum for fresh breath, the end result of extra bacteria (caused by the extra sugar) is even more bad breath.

What about sugar-free gum?

Studies have shown that sugar-free chewing gum is actually good for your teeth.  When you chew, saliva is produced that helps to wash away food particles.  In fact, saliva is your body’s first natural defense against the bacteria in your mouth.  Further, some sugar free gum is made with a natural sugar substitute called xylitol that has been shown to reduce cavities and protect teeth.   Even with xylitol, however, chewing gum can never replace brushing and flossing.  Sugar-free gum can be a good alternative for people who love to chew gum but also want to protect their teeth.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: A Look at the Best and Worst Candy for Your Teeth

Not all candy is created equal in terms of its potential damage to your teeth.  The sugar in candy feeds the bacteria that cause plaque. So the amount of sugar a candy contains along with the length of time it sits on teeth often determines how destructive it is.  This infographic looks at several options, from the best to the worst.

The Best and the worst candy for your teeth

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