Let's talk science. Usually we like to talk about xylitol in more simplified terms - that great tasting, plant-based, low calorie ingredient that is amazing for teeth. Although that's really all you need to know, we know that some of you might like to get into the nitty gritty of how xylitol actually works.
What exactly is xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally derived polyol and sugar alternative. Traditionally it comes from Birch trees (‘Xyl’ is Greek for wood – think ‘xylophone’), but it can be found in lots of trees and vegetables. We like to source ours from Beech trees and also some other starchy vegetables like green beans. It is naturally sweet but unlike other polyols it actively promotes healthy teeth by reducing acid attacks and the bacteria that causes plaque.
So how does it actually work?
Xylitol prevents the growth of MS (mutans streptococci) bacteria in the mouth through a ‘futile metabolic cycle’. Essentially the bacteria metabolises the xylitol and wastes its energy, ultimately stopping itself from multiplying (1).
Xylitol reduced the population of plaque by making it harder for plaque to stick to teeth (2). It does this by reducing the population of EPS (extracellular polysaccharides) bacteria which contribute to the adhesiveness of MS bacteria. This basically means that they cannot colonise, become sticky and form plaque. Because the plaque is weaker it makes it easier to remove through everyday brushing. Significant reductions in bacteria and total plaque quantities can be observed following periods of consumption from as little as two weeks. The plaque stays reduced during xylitol consumption and regrowth is slow when it has ceased (3).
Not only is the amount of plaque reduced but plaque does no longer produces acids from xylitol, so it acts against low pH in the mouth (4).
Xylitol and dry mouth
We have lots of dry mouth sufferers who use our products because our mints and gum promote saliva, which provides relief and also helps buffer acids. Often, dry mouth sufferers suck a lot of mints, so having ones with xylitol instead of sugar is good for actively promoting healthy teeth.
Xylitol consumption by mothers prevents caries occurrence in their children
Mothers are the primary source of MS bacteria in their children (5). In studies of young children (3 months to 24 months) consumption of xylitol by the mother has been shown to reduce the child’s MS colonisation by as much as 80% (6). The positive impact of this early avoidance of MS can lead to significantly lower caries occurrence even at 5 and 10 years old (7).
What’s the ideal dosage?
To get the full benefits of xylitol you need about 5g per day. An easy way to get this amount into your diet is to chew about 5 pieces of our gum, or eat about 9 of our mints per day. This amount will prevent plaque and acid attacks, keeping your teeth clean and healthy. (8)
What if you want to eat more than 5g per day?
Xylitol is a polyol (a family of sugar alternatives) and like with all polyols, “excessive consumption” can cause a laxative effect. The good news though is that 25% to 50% of xylitol is absorbed in the intestine so it’s much better tolerated than some other sugar alternatives. So the big question is, how much is “excessive”? Well it completely depends on the individual as we are all different. Research has shown that the tolerance for xylitol can be up to 70g for adults and 40g for kids (per day). To put this into perspective a whole pack of mints is 13.8g so will be well tolerated by the vast majority of people.
Want to find out more?
Head this way to watch our mindboggling video on how xylitol works.
- Milgrom et al 2006, Soderling et al 2008
- Soderling et al 1997, Maquire and Rugg-Gunn 2003, Cronin et al 1994
- Makinen et al 1985, Soderling et al 1987, Soderling 1997
- Havenaar 1978, Soderling et al 1989, Splieth et al 2009, Campus et al 2009
- Berkowitz and Jordan 1975, Davey and Rogers 1984, Caufield et al 1985, 1987, 1995
- Soderling et al 2000, Thorild et al 2003, 2006, Nakai et al 2010, Fontana et al 2009, Olak at al 2012
- Isokangas et al 2000, Laitala et al 2010
- Makinen 1996, Milgrom 2009