Is xylitol good for my baby’s teeth? The short and sweet answer to that question is yes. Here’s why…
What is xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar found in a variety of plants and fruits, including birch trees, plums, strawberries and cauliflower. Xylitol has been used for many years as a sugar substitute, though its application within the food industry is restricted due to its laxative effects when consumed in large quantities.
Characteristically, xylitol looks and feels the same as sugar and is just as sweet, however, it has much fewer calories and does not have the same damaging effect on teeth that sugar does.
How does xylitol protect teeth?
We all know that too much sugar leads to tooth decay. This is because the bacteria that live inside your mouth are able to rapidly digest sugar, converting it into acid. This acid then begins to break down and erode the tooth enamel, which eventually leads to cavities. But the bacteria in your mouth cannot digest xylitol, which means they can’t produce the enamel-eroding acid which is so harmful to your teeth.
What’s more, xylitol has actually been found to inhibit the growth of some of the most common cavity-causing bacteria, as well as decreasing their ability to stick to the surface of the teeth where they cause the most damage.
Some studies have even found that xylitol can help repair the enamel of damaged teeth when used alongside other restorative products.
Is xylitol good for my baby’s teeth?
Yes — but only if it is administered regularly and at the right dosage.
Children’s toothpastes sometimes contain very small quantities of xylitol. The relative daily dosage of xylitol that your child receives from tooth brushing alone is minimal.
It is recommended that adults consume between 6-10g of xylitol a day in order to see any positive dental effects — something that is made possible through its use in sugar-free chewing gums and mints.
The problem is that mints and chewing gum present an obvious choking hazard for babies., Finding an appropriate ‘vehicle’ to administer enough xylitol to infants in order to provide a positive outcome is a challenge.
How much xylitol should I be using to keep my baby’s teeth healthy?
Several studies have looked at the question of appropriate xylitol dosing for children and the general consensus seems to be that somewhere in the region of 5g per day (divided up into three to five doses spread throughout the day) is sufficient to provide protection against tooth decay.
One study did find, however, that children receiving 8g of xylitol syrup a day had up to 70% fewer decayed teeth than the control children with no adverse side effects, raising the question – do we need a differential xylitol dose for children when the RDA for adults is 6-10g?
Frankly, using a children’s toothpaste containing xylitol alone is unlikely to provide any significant benefits or additional protection from childhood tooth decay than using a fluoride toothpaste does.
However, introducing xylitol at an early age won’t do any harm. It is proven to work effectively alongside fluoride to help prevent tooth decay and any amount of xylitol in your child’s oral health routine would be beneficial.
So What Should I Do?
- If you aren’t already, use a baby or children’s toothpaste that contains both fluoride and xylitol
- Make sure you keep your own oral hygiene in check — chewing xylitol gum after meals will help keep decay-causing bacteria in check
- Even if you have exemplary dental hygiene, avoid cleaning your child’s dummy with your own mouth. This will help to prevent the spread of any bacteria between yourself and your children
- Look out for other xylitol products that may be beneficial, especially for babies who are just started to teethe. Dental wipes with xylitol will help to create a healthy environment for new teeth and keep gums clean.
“Is xylitol good for my baby’s teeth?” was created by the experts at Epsom Dental.
If you would like to know more about how to improve your child’s oral hygiene, please call Epsom Dental on 01372 720650 to book an appointment. Children are seen free of charge for NHS dentistry at our surgery — if you’d like more information or to register, please visit our Kid’s NHS Dentistry page.