Xylitol is a natural sweetener that has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities. Cavity prevention is a heated area of research in the oral health field and this natural sugar alcohol shows more potential as a decay preventative sweetener than other options. One of the coolest things about xylitol is that it can be used exactly like sugar and is equal in sweetness to the more common option but because of its slightly different chemical makeup it doesn’t work in baking that requires leavened yeast.
Research shows that xylitol inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes cavities. Bacteria usually uses sugar as energy to grow and reproduce inside of your mouth but it turns out that cavity causing bacteria cannot utilize xylitol to grow. You still get the sweet, natural taste that you love and the major concern for cavities is diminished in the process. However, some research suggests that xylitol has to be the first or second ingredient on the list to warrant a high enough dose to ward off cavities. Adding xylitol as part of an overall strategy for cavity risk reduction may be an option that you should discuss with your dentist if you have moderate to high risk of tooth decay.
Right now xylitol is most commonly found in chewing gum and mints although it has the potential to be used in many other foods. It has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, and the European Union’s Scientific Committee for Food. This interesting sugar innovation is continuing to undergo testing and may be the sweetener in your favorite cereal before you know it!