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Xylitol Toothpaste

What You Need to Know About Xylitol Toothpaste

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Updated June 05, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Xylitol toothpaste is a natural product said to improve dental health. A sugar alcohol extracted from plants (such as birch and other hardwood trees), xylitol is also used as an ingredient in dental care products like chewing gum and breath mints. Since xylitol is thought to slow the growth of bacteria that cause cavities, xylitol toothpaste is often touted as a natural approach to cavity prevention.

The Science Behind Xylitol Toothpaste

There is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effects of xylitol toothpaste. However, there's some evidence that brushing with xylitol toothpaste may provide certain dental health benefits.

A 2007 study from the Journal of Oral Science, for instance, found that xylitol-enhanced fluoride toothpaste may help protect against tooth decay. For the study, researchers immersed extracted human teeth in a solution designed to strip away their minerals. After treating the teeth with xylitol-enhanced fluoride toothpaste twice a day for two weeks, the researchers discovered that the toothpaste helped restore minerals to the teeth (an effect that could hinder the development of cavities).

More Research on Xylitol

Preliminary findings from a number of laboratory studies show that xylitol can help knock out cavity-promoting bacteria. For example, the authors of a 2006 report from Pediatric Dentistry note that xylitol appears to reduce levels of streptococcus mutans (the bacteria most closely associated with tooth decay) in plaque and saliva. Xylitol seems to combat cavity-promoting bacteria by inhibiting acid production within the bacteria, according to a 2008 study from Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry.

On the other hand, there's some evidence that xylitol-containing foods may fail to enhance dental health. In a 2002 study from the Journal of the American Dental Association, for instance, researchers found that four weeks of consumption of xylitol-enriched candy or snacks did not reduce levels of cavity-promoting bacteria. The study included 189 participants.

Safety

Xylitol has been approved for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There are no known adverse effects associated with the use of xylitol toothpaste.

Where to Find Xylitol Toothpaste

Sold in many natural-food stores, xylitol toothpaste is widely available for purchase online.

Using Xylitol Toothpaste

Although it's too soon to recommend xylitol toothpaste as a top strategy for cavity prevention, including xylitol toothpaste in your dental care may be of some benefit. In addition, there's some evidence that natural remedies like black tea, oolong tea, and cranberry may also fight tooth decay.

For optimal dental health, the National Institutes of Health suggest brushing your teeth every day with a fluoride tooth paste, cleaning between your teeth every day with dental floss or another type of between-the-teeth cleaner, limiting your consumption of sugary foods, avoiding tobacco use and smoking, and seeing your dentist or oral health professional on a regular basis.

It's important to note that xylitol toothpaste should not be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of a chronic dental condition (such as periodontitis).

Sources

Badet C, Furiga A, Thébaud N. "Effect of xylitol on an in vitro model of oral biofilm." Oral Health Prev Dent. 2008;6(4):337-41.

Lif Holgerson P, Stecksén-Blicks C, Sjöström I, Oberg M, Twetman S. "Xylitol concentration in saliva and dental plaque after use of various xylitol-containing products." Caries Res. 2006;40(5):393-7.

Ly KA, Milgrom P, Rothen M. "Xylitol, sweeteners, and dental caries." Pediatr Dent. 2006 Mar-Apr;28(2):154-63; discussion 192-8.

Lynch H, Milgrom P. "Xylitol and dental caries: an overview for clinicians." J Calif Dent Assoc. 2003 Mar;31(3):205-9.

National Institutes of Health. "Dental Health: MedlinePlus." November 2011.

Peldyak J, Mäkinen KK. "Xylitol for caries prevention." J Dent Hyg. 2002 Fall;76(4):276-85.

Roberts MC, Riedy CA, Coldwell SE, Nagahama S, Judge K, Lam M, Kaakko T, Castillo JL, Milgrom P. "How xylitol-containing products affect cariogenic bacteria." J Am Dent Assoc. 2002 Apr;133(4):435-41; quiz 492-3.

Sano H, Nakashima S, Songpaisan Y, Phantumvanit P. "Effect of a xylitol and fluoride containing toothpaste on the remineralization of human enamel in vitro." J Oral Sci. 2007 Mar;49(1):67-73.

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