Dental Education Lecture: Good Candy

We all know that candies are generally bad for our teeth, causing cavities.  But there is one good candy, called Xylitol.  This type of candy in fact can prevent cavities.

In the Second World War, ports of Finland were blocked.  There was no sugar imported.  The government encouraged scientists to find a homemade sugar.  Soon Xylitol was extracted from bark (skin) of a tree.  After the war was over, Finland stopped making Xylitol, because it was more expensive to make it than to import crane sugar.  Interestingly, dentists found that the children whose teeth erupted during the war had much less cavities as compared to those before and after the war.

Since then, there have been a lot of scientific studies to show the benefits of Xylitol in preventing cavities.  To get most out of it, first we have to use gums containing 100% of Xylitol.  There are no any other candies in the gums.  Regular sugars in gums counteract the beneficial effect of the Xylitol.  Second, we need to use the gums several times a day.  The third, 100% Xylitol containing gums are only available in health stores.

Xylitol is a small molecule, having 5 carbons in its chemical structure.  In contrast, the other sugars have 6 carbons.  Xylitol easily enters bacteria, but bacteria cannot use it and need to use up a lot of energy to pump Xylitol out.  In this way, bacteria cannot form plaque, which help bacteria stick to our tooth surface.  Without energy, bacteria cannot produce acids to erode our enamel.  Cavities are prevented.  We can also buy Xylitol for cooking from health stores.  It is reported to taste delicious.  Try to find the nearest store by website.

Everyone can get benefits to use Xylitol, young and old, man and woman.  Do you know that cavities (actually bacteria) can pass from one person to others, particularly among family?  If pregnant woman starts to use Xylitol as soon as possible and uses it for several years, bad bacteria (causing cavities) die in her mouth before her baby is born.  There is very little chance for bad bacteria to pass to her child.  Is that so nice?

Xin Wei, DDS, PhD, MS 1st edition 11/28/2010, last revision 11/28/2010