Xylitol Toothpaste

What You Need to Know About Xylitol Toothpaste

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Xylitol toothpaste is a product said to improve dental health. A sugar alcohol sourced from birch trees and other types of plants, xylitol tastes sweet but (unlike sugar) isn't converted in the mouth to acids that can cause tooth decay. Since it is thought to slow the growth of Streptococcus mutans (the bacteria most closely associated with tooth decay), xylitol toothpaste is often touted as a natural approach to cavity prevention.

Xylitol is also used as an ingredient in dental care products like chewing gum and breath mints.

The Research on Xylitol Toothpaste: Does It Work?

Although research on xylitol toothpaste has yielded mixed results, there's some evidence that brushing with xylitol toothpaste may provide certain dental health benefits.

In a 2015 report from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, for instance, scientists sized up 10 previously published studies (with a total of 5903 participants) on the use of xylitol to prevent cavities.

In their review, the report's authors found that over 2 1/2 to 3 years of use, a fluoride toothpaste containing 10 percent xylitol reduced cavities by 13 percent when compared to a fluoride-only toothpaste.

A 2007 study from the Journal of Oral Science found that xylitol-enhanced fluoride toothpaste may help protect against tooth decay. For the study, researchers immersed extracted human teeth in a solution designed to strip away their minerals.

After treating the teeth with xylitol-enhanced fluoride toothpaste twice a day for two weeks, the researchers discovered that the toothpaste helped restore minerals to the teeth (an effect that could hinder the development of cavities).

Preliminary findings from a number of laboratory studies show that xylitol can help knock out cavity-promoting bacteria.

For example, the authors of a 2006 report from Pediatric Dentistry note that xylitol appears to reduce levels of Streptococcus mutans in plaque and saliva.

Not all findings have found that xylitol can inhibit the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria. In a laboratory study comparing toothpaste containing fluoride to toothpaste containing other substances, xylitol wasn't found to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Possible Side Effects

Xylitol has been approved for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If you are considering trying it, talk with your dentist and healthcare provider first. 

Adverse effects that have been reported in studies include mouth sores, bloating, cramps, constipation, gas, loose stools, and diarrhea. The toothpaste shouldn't be ingested or left in the mouth without rinsing.

It's important to note that xylitol toothpaste shouldn't be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of a dental condition (such as periodontitis).

Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs.

If your dog eats xylitol toothpaste, it is important to take the dog to a veterinarian immediately.

Where to Find It

Sold in many natural-food stores, xylitol toothpaste is widely available for purchase online.

The Bottom Line

Although it's too soon to tell whether xylitol toothpaste can significantly cut your risk of cavities, including xylitol toothpaste as part of an your overall dental care strategy may be of some benefit.

There's also preliminary evidence that several other natural remedies may help protect against cavities. For instance, some research indicates that black tea and oolong tea can each help prevent tooth decay. And in a research review, scientists note that cranberry may help fight tooth decay by preventing bacteria from sticking to teeth.

For optimal dental health, the National Institutes of Health suggest brushing your teeth every day with a fluoride tooth paste, cleaning between your teeth every day with dental floss or another type of between-the-teeth cleaner, limiting your consumption of sugary foods, avoiding tobacco use and smoking, and seeing your dentist or oral health professional on a regular basis.

Sources:

Lif Holgerson P, Stecksén-Blicks C, Sjöström I, Oberg M, Twetman S. Xylitol concentration in saliva and dental plaque after use of various xylitol-containing products. Caries Res. 2006;40(5):393-7.

Ly KA, Milgrom P, Rothen M. Xylitol, sweeteners, and dental caries. Pediatr Dent. 2006 Mar-Apr;28(2):154-63; discussion 192-8.

Riley P, Moore D, Ahmed F, Sharif MO, Worthington HV. Xylitol-containing products for preventing dental caries in children and adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Mar 26;(3):CD010743.

Sano H, Nakashima S, Songpaisan Y, Phantumvanit P. Effect of a xylitol and fluoride containing toothpaste on the remineralization of human enamel in vitro. J Oral Sci. 2007 Mar;49(1):67-73.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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