While nothing can replace the importance of brushing and flossing twice a day, did you know that chewing sugarless gum can help keep cavities away?
There are many different kinds of chewing gum available at the store. Many of them are sugar-free and have artificial sweeteners in them to make them taste good.
Chewing any type of sugar-free gum can help keep your mouth clean, since gum chewing produces saliva, which bathes teeth in a cavity-fighting rinse.
If your child is going to chew gum, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you choose sugar-free gum that contains xylitol as the sugar substitute. Read the label on the back of the package to see if the gum contains xylitol.
What is xylitol?
Xylitol is a natural substance that can be found in different fruits and vegetables. Some of the most common xylitol rich foods are:
Studies say that four or more cups of xylitol each day, when split into three or four helpings can help reduce cavities by as much as 70%.
It can be hard to get toddlers and young children to eat four or more cups of foods that contain xylitol. For that reason, xylitol is available as a sugar substitute that can be used in cooking or baking, and for older children it can be found in many brands of chewing gum.
How does xylitol work?
There are many things about xylitol that make it better than other sugar substitutes. Inside your child's mouth there is harmful bacteria that feed on sugars and carbohydrates, which produce acid. This acid attacks the teeth, making them more likely to get cavities.
Xylitol works to fight the acid attacks which reduces the threat of cavities. Xylitol also stimulates saliva production. Saliva washes away food particles, plaque and bacteria, making the gums and teeth cleaner.
When used in combination with fluoride, xylitol works to protect teeth and keep them cavity free. No other sugar substitute has been shown to benefit children's teeth like xylitol has.
Using too much xylitol does not provide more protection against cavities, so follow the recommendations carefully.
When should my child start using xylitol?
Older children can reduce the threat of cavities by chewing xylitol gum.
And even though infants and toddlers cannot chew gum, they can still benefit from their mothers and other caregivers who use xylitol. This is because it makes mouths cleaner, so there is less cavity causing bacteria to be transferred between caregiver and child. Xylitol can also be used as a sugar substitute in baking and cooking and can be found in the foods mentioned above. If your child is too young to chew gum, consider these alternatives.