Xylitol is a natural sugar alternative that has been growing in popularity over the last couple of years. But is this sweet substitute for traditional sugar better for you? Can you still enjoy sweet snacks with xylitol without the guilt you may feel from eating too much sugar? Let’s check in with your dentist in Lake Oswego to see how, and if, xylitol is better for you than sugar.
What is Xylitol?
We’ve already covered the fact that xylitol is a natural sugar substitute, but there’s even more to know about the stuff. Xylitol is found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, and even in our own bodies. Its sweet taste can mimic traditional sugar, but there are a few differences between xylitol and sugar.
Xylitol is lower in calories than sugar (by about 40%!) which means the weight concerns that often go hand-in-hand with eating too much sugar are reduced by replacing it with xylitol. Additionally, xylitol doesn’t increase blood sugar levels the same way sugar does. This can make xylitol a better choice for your sweet fix without the negative side effects on your body and without the need to sacrifice taste.
But the benefits of xylitol don’t stop there. As your dentist in Lake Oswego knows, xylitol may also help improve and protect oral health.
Xylitol & Oral Health?
So the reality is that we all have bacteria in our mouths. Some of these bacteria are beneficial, but some are dangerous. One of the bad types of bacteria is called Streptococcus mutans, and these bacteria are the main causes of plaque buildup and cavity development. Streptococcus mutans really really love to eat sugar. This means the more sugar we have, the more we feed these bacteria. But there’s another problem. Streptococcus mutans won’t only feed on sugar, the sugar will also help them create more and more bacteria. But this doesn’t happen with xylitol. Streptococcus mutans will still feed on xylitol but instead of fueling bacteria, xylitol starves them and they die off. This can help:
- Reduce the risk of tooth decay
- Decrease bacteria levels by up to 75%
- Prevent oral inflammation
- Lower the risk of gum disease
Swapping Sugar for Xylitol
Making the switch from sugar to xylitol may be easier than you think. In fact, one of the easiest swaps you can make is by choosing gum that contains xylitol. Chewing gum can increase saliva production, which washes away bacteria, and neutralizes acid to protect tooth enamel. Plus, the added benefit of xylitol can starve bacteria.
Another way you can make the switch is by looking for xylitol in your grocery store baking aisle. You can swap sugar for xylitol in many recipes so you can still enjoy a sweet snack without all of the risks of sugar.
Keep in mind that swapping to xylitol instead of sugar isn’t enough to fully protect your teeth. You will also want to continue to brush and floss every day, as well as see your dentist in Lake Oswego regularly for professional dental cleanings and exams.