One of the biggest challenges as a parent can be making sure your kids take care of their teeth. There’s only so many times you can gently remind them that 10 seconds is not an acceptable amount of time to brush.
If you’re currently working with your little ones to help them understand the necessity of good oral care, you’ve most likely asked yourself what xylitol is after seeing the ingredient popping up in everything from candy to toothpastes. So we took a deeper dive into this natural sweetener to determine if it really is OK for your kids and their teeth, too.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol (a carbohydrate that tastes sweet, but has about 50 percent less calories than sugar per gram) that is made from plants and agricultural materials. It’s been used in healthcare since the 1960s in infusion therapy and in the diet of diabetic patients, but has recently started to garner fame as a natural sweetener that may also help improve oral health.
How Does Xylitol Combat Cavities?
Unlike sugar, cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth can’t use xylitol to grow, so continual usage of xylitol instead of sugar may actually mean less bacteria can survive on the surfaces of teeth; thus, less cavities!
What Are Some Common Xylitol Products?
There are many children’s applications of xylitol, from oral care products to edible treats, although it tends to be most often found in gum and mints.
One caveat: because xylitol acts like fiber once it’s ingested, there is the possibility for little stomachs to become upset if too much of it is consumed at once, so just make sure to monitor how many mints, candies, or pieces of xylitol-infused chewing gum your kids are going through in a day!
Xylitol Sweetener: The Bottom Line
If you’re looking to lessen the amount of regular sugar your children consume, opting for candies or gum sweetened with xylitol is a step in the right direction. But as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry currently cautions, we shouldn’t assume this sugar substitute is a stand in for brushing and flossing. While the AAPD supports xylitol as a sugar substitute, they also recognize “that the large dose and high frequency of xylitol used in clinical trials may be unrealistic in clinical practice,” so “consistent evidence” is still lacking when it comes to direct improvements on oral health.
For something that truly supports your child’s oral health, try twice daily brushing with Aquafresh Kids Bubblemint toothpaste. Not only does it have a fun taste that kids will love, it has the added benefit of sugar acid protection from fluoride to strengthen and actively defend little teeth1.
1 Make sure to talk to your child’s dentist first about when it’s appropriate to start them on a fluoride toothpaste