Studies suggest that ingesting a total of 6–10 grams of xylitol per day — divided into 3–5 smaller doses — lowers the risk of cavities. So far, chewing gum containing xylitol after each meal appears to be the best way to administer xylitol for oral health benefits. Gum must be chewed for about five minutes to get the full dose of xylitol. Other products that are made with xylitol include candies, syrups, mouth sprays, and toothpaste.
Some product labels list the amount of xylitol per serving, while others do not. Look for products with xylitol listed as the only sweetener or as one of the first three ingredients. As the popularity of xylitol rises, some companies are putting tiny amounts into many products just to have it on the list of ingredients. Two brands of gum that are sweetened with 100% xylitol are Spry and B-Fresh, which are widely available in retail health-food and specialty supplement stores. These and other brands are also sold on the Internet.
A different type of product sweetened with 100% xylitol is Xylimelts, which are “domes” of xylitol mixed with vegetable gums that dissolve slowly in the mouth. For convenience, they are formulated to stick to a molar or to gum tissue next to a molar. The domes contain 500 milligrams of xylitol, which is released over an hour or so as they dissolve. The maker of Xylimelts recommends using at least four domes per day after meals and snacks to get maximum benefits. The domes can be purchased over the Internet at www.amazon.com and www.dentaldepot.com and may be available in some retail stores.
The makers of Xylimelts caution that they should not be given to children under five because they pose a choking hazard. Similarly, many experts advise against giving chewing gum to children under four for the same reason. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle have been testing whether eating xylitol-sweetened gummy candies several times a day helps to prevent tooth decay in school-age children (grades one through five). However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping both hard and sticky candy away from children under four, so these may not be appropriate for younger children, either.
Essential oils — oils extracted from the leaves, stems, flowers, and other parts of plants — have been added to dental products for decades and have been found to be effective at lowering the amount of bacteria in the mouth. Listerine, for example, contains the essential oil components thymol, eucalyptol, and menthol.
For people with dry mouth, however, products containing essential oils may taste too intense, because there’s not enough saliva in their mouths to dilute the product. An obvious solution would be to lower the amount of essential oils in these products to make them tolerable, but because products such as mouthwash and toothpaste are held in the mouth for such a short time, this is not an option. For essential oils to be effective at lowering bacteria levels, they must be used at a high concentration for a short time or a low concentration for a long time.
Some newer products overcome this problem by using materials that can be held in the mouth for a long period while essential oils are slowly released. Two such products from the Nuvora company are Salese and Dentiva. Both are lozenges containing essential oils and xylitol that are designed to take more than an hour to dissolve. Salese is specifically marketed for use by people with dry mouth and contains ingredients to make the mouth feel more slippery. They are currently sold online at http://store.nuvorainc.com.
Recaldent is a milk-derived protein that can be used to supply the teeth with calcium and phosphate and to combat acidity in the mouth. Its use may strengthen tooth enamel and decrease tooth sensitivity. Recaldent is found in Trident Xtra Care and Trident White sugar-free chewing gums. (It may be called “calcium casein peptone-calcium phosphate” in the ingredients list found on gum packaging.) Trident Xtra Care also contains xylitol, while Trident White does not.