The Answers to Xylitol FAQs

Maybe you’ve seen it as an ingredient in your sugar-free chewing gum.  Or maybe Dr. Chowning recommended it as a sugar substitute for you.  You might have seen it advertised as a “magic” ingredient in some oral care products.  Here’s what you really need to know about xylitol.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from plants.  It is an ingredient in many sugar-free products, and it is gaining in popularity as an ingredient in oral care products like toothpastes and mouthwashes.  You can purchase granular xylitol and use it as a sugar substitute.

Is Xylitol Safe?


Xylitol in large quantities may cause some stomach upset, but it is not harmful to humans.  Because xylitol has a topical effect in the mouth, you don’t even need to swallow it to get the benefits it provides!

Is Xylitol Harmful to Dogs?


Xylitol is poisonous to dogs.  Please keep any products containing xylitol completely out of your dog’s reach.  If your dog eats or drinks anything with xylitol, you should call your vet immediately and induce vomiting if possible.

Is Xylitol Good for You?

It is good for your mouth!

The bad bacteria in our mouths that cause cavities and gum disease will “eat” xylitol in the same way they ingest sugar.  The benefit comes from the fact that the bacteria cannot digest xylitol.  It has an inhibitory effect on these bacteria, which reduces their ability to cause cavities and gum disease.

What is Xylitol Used For?

Most people use it as an alternative to sugar.  It serves as a natural sweetener in candies, gums, foods, and oral care products.  Studies showing its inhibitory effect on disease-causing bacteria have influenced its addition to toothpaste and mouthwash formulations.

Because chewing a xylitol-containing gum is such a simple way to fight cavities and gum disease, Dr. Chowning may recommend it to parents of young children.  Anyone who has a high risk for dental problems should consider chewing a xylitol gum regularly.  It fights bacteria and stimulates natural saliva, which in itself fights bacteria.

Toothpastes containing xylitol decrease the levels of S. mutans (the bacteria that causes cavities) and increase the pH of the oral environment.  These (reducing bacterial levels and increasing pH) are two powerful weapons against cavities!

Is Xylitol Better than Fluoride?


Some people tout xylitol as a replacement for fluoride.  Unfortunately, xylitol and fluoride serve different functions, so one cannot simply replace the other.  As we explained already, xylitol affects the actual cavity-causing bacteria.  It fights cavities by fighting the bacteria that cause them.

Fluoride, on the other hand, hardens and strengthens enamel and dentin (the important components of our teeth).  It fights cavities by fortifying the areas under attack.

The great news is that xylitol and fluoride actually work really well together!  One study showed that the addition of xylitol to a fluoride toothpaste improved its cavity-stopping power.

Wondering How to Incorporate Xylitol into Your Oral Care Routine?

Start simple.  Chew “Ice Cubes” brand gum.  Each piece contains 2 grams of xylitol.  If you have a high risk for cavities, find a toothpaste that contains both fluoride and xylitol.  You can also use xylitol in place of sugar in sweetening your coffee, tea, or baking.

More Questions about Xylitol?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a visit with Dr. Chowning or one of our wonderful dental hygienists.  They can answer any question you have about adding xylitol to your daily routine in order to improve your oral health.

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