Could This Sugar Prevent Cavities?

Via on Aug 9, 2012

I never thought I would be reporting on the benefits of chewing gum, as I have never been a big fan of it.

That said, the research on a common sweetener found in some chewing gum and toothpaste brands is compelling! Not only has this sweetener been shown to prevent dental cavities (caries), it has also been shown to reverse early stage tooth decay (1).

Find out how this incredible sweetener works to help prevent tooth decay in both children and adults.

And, if that isn’t enough, let’s review the latest research showing that chewing gum can improve concentration and attentiveness in kids who chew gum while studying or testing!

Tooth Decay is on the Rise

The facts are in. According to a recent article in the New York Times (March 6, 2012) and the Center for Disease Control, dentists are seeing a significant increase in cavities in children.

The most noteworthy reason for this is sugar. Sugar breeds infectious bacteria called streptococcal mutans. In a mouth full of sugar, streptococcal mutans releases a tooth-dissolving acid that softens the teeth and encourages tooth decay.

While taking sugar out of the diet would be a great solution, it might be unrealistic for many children. Even if parents took away the added sugars from their child’s diet, there is still an incredible amount of hidden sugar in the American diet that would breed streptococcal mutans. (For more info on these hidden sugars, please see my series on pre-diabetes and blood sugar).

This Natural Sweetener in Certain Gums and Toothpastes May Help

There is one natural sugar found in small amounts of many foods like fruit, berries, veggies, corn, and seeds that will not feed the tooth-decaying streptococcal mutans bacteria. It is called xylitol, a naturally-occurring sugar alcohol that I recently reported on in my pre-diabetes series.

Unlike sucrose, or table sugar, xylitol does not feed or cause the proliferation of streptococcal mutans. Thus, the population of these tooth-decaying bacteria plummets. In fact, xylitol actually supports the growth of numerous beneficial bacteria in the mouth that do not cause tooth decay (2).

Nowadays, xylitol is increasing in popularity as the sweetener of choice with many natural chewing gum companies.

In a study performed in Belize, 1,277 children were given time to chew gum each day. One group chewed xylitol gum; another group chewed sugar-sweetened gum, and a third group chewed gum sweetened with sorbitol.

Sorbitol is another sugar alcohol that is commonly found in sugar-free chewing gums. While it has shown some protection against tooth decay, in this study, the sorbitol group only showed a 26 percent reduction in cavities. The group that chewed sugar-sweetened gum had a 120 percent increase in cavities, and the group that chewed xylitol sweetened gum had a 73 percent reduction in cavities (3).

•    Sugar-sweetened gum: 120 percent increase in cavities
•    Sorbitol-sweetened gum: 26 percent reduction in cavities
•    Xylitol-sweetened gum: 73 percent reduction in cavities

What amazed me most about this research was that kids who started chewing gum at age six had an overall 59 percent reduction in cavities and a whopping 93 percent reduction for the new teeth that erupted during the study. If the kids were chewing the xylitol gum one year before the new teeth erupted, and had stopped chewing before those new teeth came in, those new teeth had an 88 percent risk reduction of getting dental caries, leading researchers to believe that this gum may provide long-term, maybe lifelong, protection against tooth decay (4).

Cautionary Note

Xylitol is still a sugar with a sweet taste and should be used cautiously as you would any sugar. While I was not able to source any negative research on xylitol, I have seen sweeteners activate a desire/craving for more sweets and stimulants. I suggest that a xylitol toothpaste or chewing gum be used in moderation—one or possibly two pieces per day.

Bonus Benefit of Chewing

Chewing has been studied thoroughly by the chewing gum industry and has linked chewing to many beneficial effects on the nervous system.

One study at St. Lawrence University showed that students who chewed during tests outperformed non-chewing students in five out of six cognitive tests, due to what they termed “mastication induced arousal.”

Another study from Cardiff University measured increased cortisol production, faster heart rates, and increased attentiveness from chewing. These tests had nothing to do with the sugar or flavor of the gum chewed.

Kids today are encouraged to chew gum during tests to improve concentration as a result of the overwhelming research in this area.

Chewing—Not Only for Gum

In addition, chewing, which we hardly need to do when eating processed foods, has an amazing effect on the digestive process. So eat your vegetables and chew.

To learn more about the benefits of chewing, see my article, “10 New Reasons to Eat Veggies.”

References:
1. Int Dent J. 2008 Feb;58(1):41-50. PMID: 18350853
2  Phytother Res. 2003 Sep;17(8):938-41. PMID: 10916329
3. Nutrition & Healing. Fight Tooth Decay. Vol 19, Issue 3. May 2012
4. Nutrition & Healing. Fight Tooth Decay. Vol 19, Issue 3. May 2012

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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About Dr. John Douillard

John Douillard, DC, has published over 400 health videos and articles that are available on his website. He has written six books, produced numerous health DVDs and CDs, and has formulated his own line of organic health care products. He is the former Director of Player Development for the New Jersey Nets NBA team. He currently directs the LifeSpa Ayurvedic Retreat Center in Boulder, CO, where he lives with his wife and six children.

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16 Responses to “Could This Sugar Prevent Cavities?”

  1. Thanks. Posted to Elephant Family and Health and Wellness on Facebook.
    Just a note to all – keep your products with xylitol careful away from your pets. It can be fatal for dogs.

    Lorin Arnold
    Blogger at The VeganAsana
    Editor for Elephant Food and Elephant Family.

  2. Karen says:

    As a dentist, I agree with xylitol use in chewing gum completely. Bit expensive, but worth it. And any sugar free gum after meals stimulates saliva, which lowers the acid levels in the mouth to a safe level faster.

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  4. fralp12 says:

    An impacted tooth that is not dealt with could lead to infection or abscess in the tooth or your gums. I went to Sunshine Clinic with such an infection and they also found plaque trapped between my teeth and gums.

  5. fralp12 says:

    I drink a lot of tea, coffee and soda, and so my teeth are badly in need of whitening, because I want a smile worthy of http://www.dentalways.com/ . I'm not fond of dentists and my budget is fairly tight, so I'm hoping for something effective I can use at home. Strips, trays, brush on gels, it's all so confusing!

  6. fralp12 says:

    I'd think that behind every famous Hollywood smile there's a great dental clinic, like Ankeny, taking care of every aspect of a celebrity's perfect smile. I am an actor myself and I understand how important perfect teeth are.

  7. fralp12 says:

    Brushing and flossing before sleeping is very important, probably more important than avoiding foods that contribute at food decay , the latter being mainly for fresh breath after all that sugar breakdown activity that occurred in your mouth over night. I learned from Jackson that sugars you've eaten during the day corrode and eat into tooth enamel.

  8. fralp12 says:

    I cannot stress how important it is to take good care of your teeth, regardless of your income level. Dental care, even out-of-pocket should be treated as a regular expense in the same way that you budget for food and rent. I went to rector and the dentist I have there really makes me happy and takes care of my smile.

  9. jasmini says:

    From a purely dental-health perspective, if I flossed and used mouthwash daily while brushing my teeth thoroughly twice a day, could I eat as much sugar as I want? I think a professional like http://candaceevansdds.com/ could give me an expert answer.

  10. ciaociao123 says:

    As a future doctor, I'm not so sure this is the best idea. Every component has it's pros and cons, but we should never focus on only one of them. When I was a kid I ended up having a very strictly treatment with meds from <a href="http://www.transferfactor-us.com” target=”_blank”>www.transferfactor-us.com because of the exces of sugar. Human body needs balance in everything.

  11. ciaociao123 says:

    I did volunteer paper-to-computer data entry for a free clinic, if you want to read some information about this. However, it was a Windows-based system. I think I should do some Googling on this topic. Has anyone successfully given up refined sugar (long term)? What were the benefits you noticed?

  12. ciaociao123 says:

    I have a conversation about this everytime I go home with my 6 year old son after going to dentist. He entered by himself <a href="http://www.quality-dentalcare.com” target=”_blank”>www.quality-dentalcare.com and stop eating sweets for a few hours, then he gets bored and goes back to his everyday eating routine.

  13. ciaociao123 says:

    I say it doesn't really matters. I ate everything I wanted as a kid, and when I got older, I just looked for a cosmetic surgery on a local site. I was lucky that I found one at a good, affortable price.

  14. Andy12 says:

    I don't really trust this kind of articles! I never know who is writing them and if that person is in anyway connected to a health related profession! I do trust a couple of websites on which I consider that posts are trustworthy, like incentaHEALTH, but other then that, I'd rather a real live specialist to tell me more about my problems.

  15. Analisse Karoly says:

    There is definitely an increase in cavities in children and that is in general caused by sweets. When a dentist diagnose you with cavities it is essential to perform a detailed check in order to see how big the cavity is and if it affects the other teeth too. It is enough to perform an x-ray in order to see that as it provides quality information about your teeth status. Nowadays there are advanced technology devices such as those from http://www.weidmann-diagnostics.com/ that are able to diagnose even the smallest cavity and this is something useful both for the dentist but also for the patient.

  16. Andrew Marconi says:

    Nowadays there are more and more children who are diagnosed with cavities at early ages. In general cavities are caused by sweets but also by the lack of oral health education. Unfortunately, as a dentist it is very difficult to establish a good relationship with a child as they are usually scared of doctors. However there are some tips in order to establish a good relationship with a child and you may start by using one of those colorful uniforms from http://www.uniformstoyou.com/healthcare.aspx and trying to play with a child until you gain his trust.

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