Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in fruit and vegetable fibers. It has been used for many years as a sugar substitute. It is about as sweet as table sugar but is metabolized to fewer calories and has a lower glycemic index, making it ideal as a sweetener for diabetics. Xylitol’s sweet taste also makes it appealing to toddlers. It is considered safe, the only recognized side effect being upset stomach and diarrhea due to osmotic effects. However, this can be minimized with a gradual rather than abrupt transition to using xylitol.
The FDA approved xylitol for use as a food additive in 1963, and multiple studies have also shown that it is effective at preventing tooth decay . Xylitol works by inhibiting the growth of some of the most common cavity-causing bacteria, mutans streptococci. It also decreases the ability of these bacteria to stick to teeth and can even promote remineralization of tooth enamel. Chewing gum and lozenges delivering 4-10 grams of xylitol per day have been shown to be effective at preventing tooth decay in adults .
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry supports the use of xylitol for cavity-prevention in children . The problem is that xylitol chewing gum and lozenges would pose a choking hazard in babies and toddlers. Several recent studies have investigated alternative xylitol vehicles for use in young children, though xylitol toothpaste has not been studied in this age group.
Xylitol also helps prevent the spread of bacteria from mother to baby. It is found in toothpaste, chewing gum and breath mints that are commonly sold over the counter. Taking good care of your teeth is very important during pregnancy, and products containing Xylitol can help you maintain good oral health and prevent spreading bacteria.