There are two main focuses when it comes to childhood dental care. First, there’s the idea that you’ll build good habits that last a lifetime.
After all, your child is a little sponge right now, and they’ll soak up any information you give them. That molds a lot of their lifelong behaviors. So, if you want your child to go without dental problems their whole life, teach them to take care of their teeth early on.
The other focus is on cavity prevention.
Kids are particularly prone to developing cavities, because without your help, they won’t maintain a normal dental hygiene routine, and they don’t usually have the best diets. Once cavities start developing, their effects can spiral out of control and create a lifetime of problems.
While the habit part of that is up to you, the cavity prevention focus is a little more complicated. You need to know what is good for your child’s teeth and what isn’t.
Today, we’re going to answer a very important question – “Does Xylitol prevent cavities in children”. A crucial tooth protector that every child needs to ward off cavities.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a type of sugar alcohol. Now, we know that term probably threw you for a loop. Sugar alcohol is good for your teeth? Well, despite how it sounds, that is true. It’s commonly used as a sweetener alternative to refined sugar in many health-focused foods and products. However, it also can’t ferment, and that means it can’t create the acidic environment that actually causes tooth decay and cavities.
See, it’s not actually the sugar that destroys your child’s teeth. It’s the way the sugar impacts your child’s natural PH balance. Acid develops, and that eats away at their enamel. In turn, the inner parts of their teeth are exposed, and cavities develop.
Benefits of Xylitol
We’ll get into the different sources of Xylitol later, but first, let’s talk about the benefits it provides.
1: Cavity Protection
We just talked about this, but Xylitol prevents cavities because it helps maintain a balanced PH in your child’s mouth. That’s the main benefit, and we won’t rehash everything here.
2: Mineral Absorption
Another key benefit for a child’s teeth is that Xylitol encourages mineral absorption in the teeth. This means that your child’s teeth will take in more of the minerals they get from dairy and other products, and the enamel will get stronger. It can’t repair serious damage such as cavities, but it can strengthen the teeth to prevent those problems from occurring.
If you want to maximize the benefits of other parts of your child’s diet and habits, Xylitol is the route to take.
Another problem that causes tooth decay is bacterial growth. It’s gross, but a ton of bacteria grows in the human mouth. Tiny particles of food rot away in there, bacteria grow in mass, and they start to eat away at your teeth. This is also why cavities tend to hurt so much, and it can cause infections that are extremely painful.
Since Xylitol stops that bacterial growth, that problem is minimized. You’ll never destroy all the bacteria in your child’s mouth, but regular Xylitol use does help dramatically.
4: Ear and Sinus Infection Reduction
This has nothing to do with dental health, but since Xylitol is an antimicrobial, it actually helps prevent ear and sinus infections. In fact, you can buy nasal sprays and over-the-counter ear infection medicines that are meant to help with those problems.
Kids get sick all the time, and considering ear infections can create lifelong hearing problems, this is not just a good dental health solution, but it’s also great for your child’s general health.
5: Weight Management and Sugar Management
Xylitol is a sugar product, but it’s actually better for your health overall. In fact, that’s why it’s used as a sweetener in all those health-conscious foods that have become popular, nowadays.
There are 60% fewer carbohydrates, and it is less calorie-dense. So, you can cut back on calorie and carb consumption by using products sweetened with Xylitol. This will most definitely make your child’s general pediatric dentist happy!
Where to Get Xylitol
So, you know that Xylitol is important and provides a lot of benefits even beyond dental care, but where do you actually get it?
If you’re the average parent just checking out the food and medicine aisles around your local big-box store, you probably haven’t seen anything with the word “Xylitol” anywhere.
However, it’s a lot easier to find than you might think.
Here are the most common sources. Some are in everyday items, and some you have to do a little searching to find.
1: Xylitol Gum
This is probably the cheapest and easiest way to get Xylitol without any sort of specialty products. Just look for a pack of gum that has Xylitol as an ingredient. It’ll be the gum’s sweetener.
You can usually find this for around $1.50 at most stores, and while not optimal, it’s an effective way to give your child Xylitol regularly.
However, being a gum product, you obviously have to use some common sense and determine whether your child can chew it instead of swallowing it. If your child is still very young, some of the other products we’ll mention will be better choices.
There’s also the fact that some of these gum products have abrasives in them, and some still have sugar. So, read the full ingredient list before picking a brand you can commit to.
2: Xylitol Sweetener
This is a good option if you have a child who is too young to chew gum, but you still want a way to get Xylitol into them a few times a day. Xylitol sweetener is sold just like normal sugar, and you add it to other things the same way.
The issue with this is that it is a bit more expensive than refined white sugar, and some stores don’t have it. If you can’t find it in your normal grocery store, head to the nearest health food store. You’ll likely find it there.
Xylitol sweetener can be used as an alternative sweetener in drinks, goodies, and everyday foods. Just try to use it sparingly and make sure your child is getting the amount we’ll recommend in a section later on.
3: Health-Focused Foods
One of the benefits of all these health food brands popping up is that they’ve made getting Xylitol extremely easy. Rather than having to portion it out yourself, trust your child with gum, or use a complicated product, it’s just worked into the food you’re already serving your child.
Be warned. While this is a very convenient option, Xylitol-sweetened foods are more expensive. It’s not by much, but that added price adds up. On top of that, you really can’t feed those foods to your kid at every meal and snack time. It’s just not practical.
So, this is best used if you purchase a product such as cereal that they’ll eat once a day, and then supplement it with gum or Xylitol sweetener as needed. It’s more cost-effective, and it keeps you from having to feed your kid Xylitol-infused sweets all day. This will make more sense later.
5: Toothpaste and Mouth Wash
Some toothpaste and mouthwashes are starting to include Xylitol. Now, not every product does. So, you have to read labels, but this can be an amazing way to work Xylitol into your child’s diet without feeding them specific things all day.
They already have to brush their teeth at least twice a day. By using a toothpaste containing Xylitol, your child can easily get at least two doses of Xylitol each day as part of their regular oral care routine.
Xylitol toothpaste also isn’t much more expensive than your run-of-the-mill toothpaste. In many cases, it’s in the same price range.
Finally, there are Xylitol candies you can buy. These are great for giving your children a little treat after mealtime without worrying about their dental health too much. They’re also better for your child’s overall health since Xylitol is a healthier sugar alternative in general.
You still need to limit your child’s intake of these candies, but as a little treat, they’re perfect.
How is Xylitol Used?
You might have noticed that we said Xylitol needs to be used multiple times per day. We know that can be quite daunting since the products tend to be a little more expensive than sugar-filled conventional products.
However, that’s for a good reason. Xylitol doesn’t work if you only use it once in a blue moon. Every pediatric dentistry specialist will tell you it has to be part of your child’s daily routine for it to produce any results.
Your child needs up to 8 grams of Xylitol per day, and that number can increase to 10 grams if they’re suffering from an infection.
This is most effectively done when you spread that dosage out over 3 to 5 servings, as well.
This is why we made sure to highlight different ways to incorporate it. Could you imagine having your child chew enough Xylitol gum in a day to get 8 grams of it from the gum alone? What about the prices associated with taking that much Xylitol from an expensive container of sweetener every day?
Luckily, you can mix and match the various products we talked about to get the right amount of Xylitol per day without creating a restrictive diet or using tons of expensive products every day.
We recommend starting with Xylitol toothpaste. That takes care of at least two servings per day, and it makes the Xylitol part of your child’s normal hygiene routine. Then, you can incorporate a Xylitol-sweetened cereal for breakfast, maybe a candy after dinner, or even a piece of gum after each meal to get the rest of it in.
If you spread it out like that, the Xylitol can work all day long without making you burn through expensive products like you would if you only used Xylitol sweetener to sweeten everything.
Are There Downsides to Xylitol?
For all those who are still not sure whether Xylitol prevents cavities in kids, remember that Xylitol is great for your child’s dental health and general health.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any factors you need to worry about. In fact, there are a few.
First, consuming more than 40 grams of it in a day can start causing negative effects. After all, it is a sugar product even if it’s a lot better than refined sugar. So, you still have to manage your child’s intake. The side effects are mostly harmless, but like any sweetener, it can be a bit much.
Then, there’s the price. We’ve talked about this quite a bit because we know parents already have a budget to work with, but it’s worth reiterating. However, we think it’s well worth the small premium you’ll pay on just a couple of everyday products, and if you follow our advice from earlier, you’ll minimize that extra expense dramatically.
Finally, it is toxic for dogs.
Dogs shouldn’t have any sugar-like products, but Xylitol can cause serious negative health impacts. If you don’t have a pet dog, this obviously isn’t a problem.
However, there are serious concerns if you do have dogs around. Even though you can put Xylitol products up and out of the dog’s reach, a child doesn’t know to be as cautious as you would be when eating something a dog shouldn’t have.
So, supervising your child to ensure they don’t feed the dog Xylitol products, drop such products on the floor, or otherwise make those items accessible for the dog is necessary. Luckily, it’s not something you’re constantly feeding your child. So, supervision should be an easy task to handle.
Dino Kids Dental is Here for Your Child’s Dental Health
Now you can confidently answer the question “Does Xylitol prevent cavities in children” and act accordingly to the conclusions you came to.
Xylitol is a great thing you can use at home to promote great dental health, but your child still needs a pediatric dentist to give them the best smile possible.
Dino Kids Dental is here to help with kid-friendly, professional, pediatric dentists in an environment your children will love.
Contact DINO Kids Dental, today.