Xylitol is a product that gets a lot of attention for its ability to help preventing cavities. This sugar substitute can potentially reduce the number of cavities you develop. It’s a great adjunct to holistic dentistry and helps us practice minimally invasive dentistry focused on prevention rather than restoration. But xylitol does have some drawbacks.

Blonde haired woman shows off infected and inflamed gums

Good: Xylitol Is Safe

One of the best things about xylitol is that it’s a safe substitute for sugar. You can happily eat xylitol-containing foods, chew xylitol gum, or use xylitol products without worrying about the carcinogenic or endocrine effects that have been linked to other sugar substitutes. Xylitol has been extensively studied, and it’s never been linked to cancer or other health problems.

Good: It’s Easy to Add Xylitol to Your Diet

One of the appealing things about xylitol is that you can easily substitute it into your diet without making many changes. For most people xylitol tastes just like sugar with no aftertaste, and xylitol-sweetened chewing gums are a great addition to your after meal routine. You can substitute it one for one with sugar as a sweetener in drinks or in baking. Add a little extra liquid to recipes because xylitol can absorb more liquid than regular sugar.

Xylitol won’t caramelize, though, so you’ll have to use real sugar for that. And don’t expect xylitol to feed yeast: they can’t digest it any more than oral bacteria can.

And speaking of indigestion: some people do experience minor cramps or gas if they switch to xylitol too quickly. Take it slow.

Bad: We’re Not Sure How Effective It Is

We know that xylitol has properties that can protect your teeth from decay. Oral bacteria can’t digest it, so they’re not getting the fuel they need to turn into destructive acids. But the bacteria recognize it as sugar and take it in, preventing them from taking in other sugars. They essentially die with full stomachs.

But as far as a practical matter of how effective it actually is at preventing cavities: the science is still out on that one. There are several studies showing it can be effective, and we are confident that as an adjunct to other lifestyle modifications, xylitol can have a net benefit. Studies just haven’t been designed to allow us to say this with certainty.

Prevention Is Always Best

Despite the limitations of xylitol, it’s a good addition to your preventive routine. By substituting xylitol for sugar, you may be making only a small contribution to preventing cavities, but every little bit helps. And when combined with practices like dental ozone, it allows us to treat our patients with much less drilling and filling.

If you are looking for help avoiding dental restorations through holistic dentistry, please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment with a Rochester, NY holistic dentist at Contemporary Dentistry on South Clinton Ave between Elmwood and Westfall in Brighton.