How does Xylitol Work?

Dear Dr. Ellie,

I have a question about xylitol. I have recently purchased some granular xylitol. Is it absolutely necessary for me to actually get the xylitol on my teeth (by swishing), or is it just as good to just swallow it? If it’s necessary that I get the xylitol on my teeth, would it be better to chew the gum?

Thank you for your help!

Hi TH,

This is a great question and really focuses on how xylitol works.
Xylitol has two effects on teeth :1) getting rid of plaque 2) strengthening and protecting teeth

Dentists discovered years ago that carbohydrate or sugars in our mouths (during meals or drinking) grow plaque. Plaque bacteria use sugar as energy to thicken and make acids that dissolve the strength of our teeth. This is why dentists tell you not to eat sugar.

If you eat xylitol (in any form, even baked in foods, drinks etc) harmful bacteria absorb xylitol, as if it were sugar. The difference between xylitol and sugar is that plaque bacteria cannot use it so they stop growing and stop weakening teeth each time they absorb xylitol.

If you want to eliminate plaque from teeth, you must expose harmful tooth bacteria to xylitol several times a day aiming for a total of about two teaspoons daily. Plaque bacteria double or triple in numbers at the end of a meal, so ending meals with xylitol will be more effective than consuming it in the meal (baked in foods etc.)

Of couse you can eat Xylitol. It is a good sugar in moderation and is safe for diabetics.
Some doctors recommend to consume xylitol for osteoporosis and other health benefits. But for teeth, you don’t NEED to consume it.

Xylitol works as it becomes liquid in your mouth. It would work if you just swished it around your teeth. Xylitol has no effect on teeth once you swallow it.

If you want to eliminate plaque is important to expose teeth to at least 6.5 grams regularly (about two teaspoons, five or six times a day). The end of a meal is the best time. It takes six months to get rid of plaque with this method (Your dentist will notice results in a couple of visits). Mark your “start date” on a calendar and check your teeth at six months and one year plan a xylitol party!

Strengthening and Protecting Teeth
For people with good teeth or those who have no plaque xylitol can be useful to protect teeth from acidity each day ( acidity from foods, drinks, or acidic mouth saliva).

One Zellie mint is 0.5 grams of xylitol a tiny amount but enough to change the pH of the mouth from pH 5.5 to 7.6 in less than a minute. This means that, in less than a minute, one Zellie mint can protect teeth from dissolving. Enamel will dissolve in acidity of pH 5.5 and the root surface of teeth in acidity lower than pH 6.2

Anyone with acidic saliva ( hormonal change, stress, depression) or anyone with a dry mouth ( medication, allergies etc) needs this protection constantly during the day and night. Anyone who drinks lemonade, soda, juices etc need to use xylitol to protect their teeth from this kind of acidity. Remember that juice (like apple juice) is pH 2.2 and will erode teeth in a short time.
For more about acidity and pH testing:

Hope this answer is useful!

Categories: Uncategorized