If you’re curious about what xylitol actually is, if it has any nutritional value, and how it helps your teeth, then this article is for you!
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol. That means that on a molecular level it looks just like sugar, but it has a few extra atoms attached to it that make it classified as an alcohol — not the kind of alcohol that can make you drunk! In fact, xylitol isn’t a liquid. It looks almost like sugar as you can see in the picture above.
Xylitol tastes sweet, just like sugar. Unlike artificial sweeteners, xylitol has almost no aftertaste.
Xylitol has been touted to be safe for diabetics and those with hyperglycemia.
Does Xylitol Contain Calories?
Unlike most artificial sweeteners, xylitol does contain calories. Xylitol has about 10 calories in one teaspoon. As a comparison, sugar contains about 15 calories in a teaspoon.
How Does Xylitol Protect Teeth?
We still need more studies done with xylitol until we can fully understand how xylitol helps our teeth. There are some pretty good theories out there though. Here’s a few:
Xylitol protects teeth by inhibiting glycolysis in the bacteria that live in your mouth. Glycolysis refers to breaking down sugar. The bacteria in your mouth break down sugar into acid products that harm your teeth. Since xylitol inhibits the digestion of sugar by the bacteria, it is believed that xylitol protects your teeth.
Another theory of how xylitol works to protect your teeth is that it makes it so that the bacteria in your mouth can’t stick to your teeth as easily. The bacteria in your mouth produce substances called polysaccharides (you can think of them as hands) that bacteria use to latch on to your teeth. If the bacteria can’t stick to your teeth it’s a lot harder for them to harm your teeth.
What Products Contain Xylitol?
Xylitol can be found in many chewing gums, such as Trident Minty Twist chewing gum pictured to the right. Lots of chewing gums contain other cheaper sugar alcohols like sorbitol and mannitol which haven’t been shown to help your teeth as much as xylitol.
Finally, you can find pure xylitol at certain grocery stores or you can find the bag pictured above on Amazon.
Have You Tried Xylitol?
My wife and I went to Costco over the weekend and I made sure we got some chewing gum with xylitol in it. I think chewing gum is the only exposure I’ve had to xylitol.
Have you tried xylitol as a sugar substitute? Do you have any questions or comments about xylitol? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below — Thanks for reading!