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Natural Living

Sweet Surprise

Best known as an all-natural sweetener, xylitol is also a powerful ingredient in the fight against tooth decay

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Remember when the dentist told you that sugar would rot your teeth? Well wouldn’t it be nice, you may have thought, if it made them healthy, instead?

Meet xylitol: the natural sugar alternative that boasts real promise in preventing tooth decay. Daily use of xylitol in your oral care can stop the production of tooth-decay-causing acid and prevent plaque from sticking to your teeth. Research has shown that xylitol can even help repair damage to tooth enamel. And as a bonus, it makes oral care products taste good.

Xylitol is a sweetener naturally found in low concentrates in the fibrous parts of many fruits and vegetables. It can be extracted from berries, oats, and mushrooms, as well as fibrous corn husks and birch trees. Pure xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar. But instead of eroding your teeth like sugar does, it protects your teeth.

The bacteria in your mouth thrive on sugar, causing them to multiply rapidly. This metabolic process produces acids that can eat away the enamel on your teeth, leading to tooth decay. Bacteria in the mouth can’t digest xylitol, however, so they stop multiplying.

According to studies, acid-producing bacteria may decrease as much as 90 percent with xylitol use. Without that acid, your saliva’s pH stays neutral at 7. When that pH is boosted above 7, calcium and phosphate salts in the saliva help harden weak enamel and repair early cavities.

So swap out your current toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss for products made with xylitol-and it will be easy to help keep your teeth and gums healthy.

1. Clean teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach with RadiusCranberry Floss Sachets. The vegan floss is soft and spongy, spun in vegan candelilla plant wax, and flavored with USA-sourced tree-based xylitol and antibacterial cranberry essence for a fresh, clean mouth. The vegan floss is also available in mint flavor and comes in individually wrapped Floss Sachets (great for travel).

2. Protect your mouth between brushing and flossing with The Natural DentistHealthy Balance All-Purpose Rinse Peppermint Sage, which has a clean, fresh taste. The alcohol-free rinse helps prevent gingivitis, reduces plaque, moistens mouth tissue, and freshens breath with xylitol, aloe vera, and peppermint and sage oils.

3.NOW SolutionsXyli•White Toothpaste Gel Refreshmint contains 25 percent xylitol-one of the highest concentrations available in a toothpaste. Free of fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate, this minty gel also helps whiten teeth with silica and papain (an enzyme from papaya).

4. Get natural relief from dry mouth symptoms, including a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth, bad breath, mouth sores, and frequent thirst, with XlearSpry Rain Oral Mist Spray. Xylitol and aloe vera soothe and moisturize tissues in the mouth and throat.

German and French chemists discovered xylitol in the late 19th century, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that Finnish scientists showed that it had significant dental benifits.

Sherrie Strausfogel is the author of Hawaii’s Spa Experience: Rejuvenating Secrets of the Islands. Writing about beauty, spas, health, cuisine, and travel, Strausfogel’s work has appeared in more than 100 magazines, newspapers, guidebooks, and websites. She is based in Honolulu.