Cavity Preventing Sugar?

Cavity Preventing Sugar?


            Most patients come to the dental office hoping for an A+ visit.  This means leaving the office with a report of no gum disease, no cavities, and no miscellaneous problems.  In other words, “Mrs. Smith, everything looks great today.  How are the grandkids?”


Those are fun visits for dentists because we can spend our time catching up instead of discussing future treatment options.  A+ visits are a goal for us all. 


So, what can patients do to help make A+ visits happen?  It would be redundant to discuss fluoride, brushing, and flossing twice a day.  Been there, done that.  We all know what we should be doing; it’s just a matter of doing it.  No  newspaper article is going to change those habits.


There is another way to help prevent cavities, especially in kids.  It’s a natural sugar substitute called xylitol.  Xylitol is a form of sugar that is found in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables.  In the 1960’s, some scientists (with nothing better to do, I guess), figured out how to make xylitol, artificially.  For some reason, it never really caught on as a sweetener (probably Sweet-n-Low cornered the market).  We’ve since learned that xylitol has some interesting positive dental effects.


Xylitol has the potential to prevent tooth decay.  As far as we understand, it works in two ways.  First, the bacteria that actually cause cavities cannot “eat” or process xylitol.  In other words, it helps to starve the little bugs that dissolve your teeth.  Second, xylitol makes your teeth “slippery” to bacteria.  If the bacteria can’t stick to your teeth, they can’t live on them and cause problems.  It’s also been shown that mothers who chew xylitol gum pass fewer “cavity bugs” on to their kids.


So why aren’t we all using this miracle cavity cure?  Some of us are, but it takes an effort.  Some sugar free chewing gum is already sweetened with xylitol.  You have to look at the fine print on the label.  I’d highly recommend chewing it, often.  There is also a great product for infants called Spiffies (  Spiffies are single use wipes that are pre-moistened with xylitol.  You can use them to clean the teeth of infants or toddlers.  They work great because they taste good and young kids don’t mind getting their teeth “brushed” off.  Unfortunately, I’m not getting paid for these endorsements.  I’m just relating how two dentists cleaned their own infants’ teeth.


You can also use xylitol in place of sugar for just about anything you can think of.  Imagine…sweet tea that actually prevents cavities.  Most stores don’t have fifty cent bags of xylitol on the shelves, but it’s worth an internet search or trip to town if your family has a tendency for tooth decay.


Hope this helps to make your next visit an A+.  Until next time, keep smiling.


-Questions or comments can be sent to Drs. Parrish at