A sugar alcohol known to have anti-cavity properties, xylitol has been shown to inhibit the growth of S. mutans, one of the key microbes involved in tooth decay. So it’s probably no surprise that we’re seeing it touted more and more as a kind of dental wonder ingredient.
Reality, of course, is a little more complicated. And a lot less funny. Just putting some xylitol into a product doesn’t make it a silver bullet – which is probably why, when it comes to gum, this hygienist talks a lot more about saliva generated by chewing than xylitol in the gum:
A new research review lends further weight to the possibility that spit might matter more.
Mostly, it tells us there aren’t a lot of good studies out there on xylitol gum. The University of Toronto researchers showed that of the 8 controlled trials published thus far, none were randomized. Only one used a control group given non-xylitol sugarless gum; the rest compared gum groups to no-gum groups. While all xylitol groups showed a reduction of caries,
In the single study with a sugarless-gum control group…, the researchers found no significant reduction in caries load: The average number of decayed, missing, and filled surfaces in the xylitol-gum group was 8.1; the average number in the sugarless-gum control group was 8.3; and 12.4 was the average in the no-gum control group.
“Compared to not chewing gum, the evidence shows xylitol gum is effective at reducing caries,” Kuretzky told DrBicuspid.com. “But it’s not clear whether it’s due to the xylitol itself or to the salivary production from gum chewing. Saliva dilutes acid in the mouth, reduces the sugar burden, contains minute amounts of fluoride, and possesses an intrinsic pH-buffering capacity.”
In other words, it’s probably the spit.
But gum isn’t the only way to increase saliva flow – or even the best way, considering the potential problems from regularly putting so much stress on the teeth and TM joint (the jaw joint).
- Drink plenty of water. (For extra measure, you can add a homeopathic remedy such as Energetix’s ReHydration.)
- Eat more fresh foods that need a lot of chewing, especially raw vegetables and fruit.
- Maintain good dental hygiene. Using herbal tooth preparations such as the Dental Herb Company’s Under the Gums or Tooth and Gums Tonic can also help stimulate more saliva flow.