The California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA) recommends consumers be sure to check labels for a natural sugar substitute called xylitol, an important breakthrough in preventing cavities.
Xylitol - a natural sugar substitute that is derived most commonly from birch trees and corn stock - is increasingly being used in candy, gum, toothpaste and mouthwash. It can make a difference in the oral health of every member of a family because xylitol's molecular make up is different than that of traditional sugars so it does not foster an environment necessary for bacteria to decay teeth.
"The holiday season is prime time for tooth decay," said Susan McLearan, CDHA's president. "As dental hygienists we want to raise awareness about an exciting new alternative to traditional sugars and artificial sweeteners."
Studies of xylitol have shown that it can even help repair teeth by stimulating the re-mineralization of teeth already affect by cavities. It also inhibits the further growth of bacteria in the mouth, is low calorie and is safe for diabetics.
In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the product as a dental caries and periodontal disease preventive. The agency recommends it be used two to three times daily so that the mouth and body are exposed to about 10 grams, chewing the gum or suck the mints for at least five minutes. Xylitol in every stocking can help prevent the spread of this contagious disease dental caries.
Dental caries can be spread from person to person as families share simple items such as spoons. When combined with proper oral hygiene and regular dental care, the use of xylitol products can significantly reduce the risk of cavities and gum infections.
One final note: Do not take in more than 40 grams of xylitol at a time as it can create bowel problems. Also, do not put xylitol in your pet's stockings. Just like chocolate, pets cannot process the product.