Xylitol in Dentistry – Good or Bad For Your Teeth?

Xylitol may reduce tooth decay, but is it really natural?
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What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a sweetener and is very similar to regular white sugar in appearance and taste. It is often presented as a ‘naturally occurring’ alcohol found in plant material, including many fruits and vegetables. The term ‘natural’ is predictably rife with ambiguity and interpretation. Xylitol has enthusiastic proponents and also has avid detractors. It’s widely used as a sugar substitute and in “sugar-free” chewing gums, mints, and other candies. In addition to its use as a sugar alternative, it also has dental benefits relating to tooth decay.

What are the Dental Benefits of Xylitol?

Cavities are bacterial infections that thrive in acidic conditions and are common when plaque is allowed to accumulate on teeth. Similar to sugar in taste, Xylitol differs in a few critical ways. While sugar lowers PH, Xylitol raises it. Sugar contributes to tooth demineralization while Xylitol does the opposite; it aids dental remineralization. Sugar acts as a food source for harmful bacteria, yet Xylitol has been shown to reduce levels of some of the worst kinds of bacteria including mutans streptococci. As a sweetener, it is low on the glycemic index, meaning it is safer for diabetics. Despite these and other benefits, there are trade offs associated with just about every choice we make. Understanding for yourself these trade offs, as accurately as possible and then, making a decision, is at the heart of informed consent.

Is Xylitol Safe? (Not for Dogs)

The word ‘natural’ means different things to different people. Some concerns about Xylitol (which, like sugar, is a bleached white granular product) arise from where it comes from. Many sources can be used to derive Xylitol and in the past there have been less problematic sources–like birch trees. Today, much Xylitol is sourced from corn cobs left over from ethanol production which are genetically modified; opening a Pandora’s box of polarized perspective. Other concerns involve the effect consumption has on human digestion. It is strange the effect that Xylitol has on dogs; dogs can be seriously harmed by ingesting Xylitol and although dogs ought to avoid other foods that humans enjoy other than Xylitol, still, it does seem a bit puzzling why something so ‘natural’ can pose such a threat to Fido?

Risks vs Benefits

The word ‘natural’ means different things to different people. Some concerns about Xylitol (which, like sugar, is a bleached white granular product) arise from where it comes from. Many sources can be used to derive Xylitol and in the past there have been less problematic sources–like birch trees. Today, much Xylitol is sourced from corn cobs left over from ethanol production which are genetically modified; opening a Pandora’s box of polarized perspective. Other concerns involve the effect consumption has on human digestion. It is strange the effect that Xylitol has on dogs; dogs can be seriously harmed by ingesting Xylitol and although dogs ought to avoid other foods that humans enjoy other than Xylitol, still, it does seem a bit puzzling why something so ‘natural’ can pose such a threat to Fido?

Follow The Money

Not surprisingly, the risk to reward picture is portrayed differently by different camps. It would be foolish to not acknowledge the correlation between a camp’s position and the income derived through maintenance of that position. So we see many makers of products (including Xylitol) extolling the virtues to the almost total exclusion of concerns. Our incentive is your dental health and overall wellness. We don’t want to present a slanted view or declare an undying eternal devotion for any product or treatment be Xylitol or any other that is not supported scientifically. We do assert that in many cases patients are being consciously, even strategically stripped of their right to informed consent, but that’s another topic.

Xylitol > Fluoride

Maxwell Dental offers GMO-Free Xylitol products from the topical benefit frame of reference. Despite the aforementioned concerns which are valid, the difference that Xylitol makes for certain families is significant. Individual variables which can make one treatment plan vastly different than another’s plan exist; no two patients are exactly alike. So whilst there’s no guarantee that Dr. Greff and his Associate’s endorsement of the dental benefits of Xylitol will forever remain carved in stone, there is a question worth asking: Which material do you trust more and worry about less for fighting tooth decay, Fluoride or Xylitol?

Try as you might, you simply won’t find any sane (not in a “camp”) person arguing that the Fluosilicic acid, a highly toxic waste product from the phosphate fertilizer industry, that is put into public drinking water in a non dose, mass medicated fashion is in any way ‘natural’ … well, you might, sadly. But the point is that consumption of said adjunctive therapeutic agents is your choice, you have the right to make individual benefit verses risk evaluations. It is your right to choose.

Positions can, and should change

It is not entirely uncommon at Maxwell Dental for products which were previously deemed to be beneficial to be later discontinued. We have fired products before that fail to meet our standards … why? Sometimes, before criteria is discovered, we accept a benefit–but then later, upon consideration of new insight might choose to discard a benefit that no longer outweighs the newly discovered drawback. A willingness to constantly be exploring potential benefits and drawbacks, as opposed to becoming entrenched in decades old anecdotal traditions is what Maxwell Dental is all about. We endeavour to remain astride of all developments related to your dental health.
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