Most types of gum contain sugar, and like candy, can destroy your smile if you practice poor oral hygiene. But there’s one kind that can help you avoid cavities: sugarless gum. Sugar-free gum contains xylitol, a chemical sweetener that is present in many foods. Xylitol is said to be very effective at fighting cavities and preventing decay. How can sugar be your teeth’s best friend? Let’s find out.
Xylitol is a carbohydrate like table sugar and almost as sweet, but contain fewer calories. Xylitol is naturally found in berries, birch trees and other fruits. When you look at xylitol’s chemical composition, its structure looks like a cross between a sugar and an alcohol molecule. Diabetics sometimes use xylitol as a sugar substitute, because it is absorbed more slowly and doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes.
When you chew gum with xylitol, bacteria can’t turn xylitol into acid that attack your teeth. You can consume packets of sugarless gum and your teeth will be none the worse. According to studies, however, it’s not actually xylitol that prevents cavities, but the act of chewing the sugarless gum. Chewing increases saliva production, which flushes away plaque and neutralizes acids
Saliva is an important liquid. It keeps your mouth moist and helps you chew, taste, and swallow (if you have dry mouth, you know how uncomfortable it can be). It fights bacteria and prevents bad breath. It contains minerals that protect the enamel and make it stronger. More saliva is produced as you chew or eat. Chewing sugar-free gum with xylitol is great because it boosts saliva flow without contributing to plaque build-up.