What type of xylitol products are available?
Creating a xylitol exposure for your mouth.
Throughout our pages we've struggled with deciding how to refer to the use of xylitol when it is used as a measure to help to prevent tooth decay. In our text we've used several terms including xylitol consumption, usage, ingestion, dosing, etc.... But none of these terms seems precisely correct.
The reason for this difficulty with terminology is this.
It is not the xylitol that a person eats or drinks (in the sense that the xylitol enters into our bodies and is metabolized) that creates its cavity-fighting benefits. Instead it is the exposure of the xylitol to the bacteria that live in a person's mouth that creates anti-cavity protection.
So, in light of this fact, it seems that the phrase "xylitol exposure" is probably the most appropriate term.
Since xylitol can be used as a sugar substitute, many of the sources by which a person can achieve a xylitol exposure will involve foods and beverages. But in light of the understanding that it is actually the person's exposure of the xylitol to their oral environment that is the necessary goal, non-food items such as chewing gum and even toothpaste and mouth rinse can play a valuable role in helping a person to achieve their optimal daily xylitol exposure.
Types of xylitol products.
A) Granulated xylitol
You should be able to find xylitol (granulated crystals) for sale in most any "health food" store. Your local grocery store may sell granulated xylitol also.
Since xylitol imparts the same degree of sweetness as a corresponding amount of table sugar (sucrose), it's easy and convenient to use as a sweetener in beverages, on cereals, and other table uses.
You will need to look at the "Nutrition Facts" on the product that you purchase but, in general, one teaspoon (tsp) of granulated xylitol should be 4 grams. On a per gram basis, xylitol has 2.4 calories vs. 4 for sucrose.
Xylitol can also be used for cooking and baking, once again at the same ratio as with table sugar. Keep in mind that the consumption of elevated amounts of xylitol can produce gastrointestinal difficulties. So, after evaluating the amount of sweetener required in a recipe, you may choose to substitute only a portion of the needed amount of sugar with xylitol.
Additionally, as xylitol cools it crystallizes differently than sucrose and this effect may alter the outcome (appearance, texture) of some recipes such as candies. Also, yeast cannot ferment xylitol, so it is not compatible with recipes such as bread making.
B) Xylitol chewing gum, mints and candies
Xylitol-sweetened gum, candies and mints can be found in the candy section of many grocery and convenience stores.
They've been widely available in Europe and Asia for the past ten to twenty years. In this country, as information about their benefits spreads and demand increases, you'll no doubt find them more and more available.
There can be needless uncertainty about the exact amount of xylitol that each candy, mint or stick of gum contains. The manufacturers of the best xylitol products will document "per serving" information on each item's packaging.
C) Xylitol toothpaste and mouthwash
As we have already mentioned, the cavity prevention benefits of xylitol are founded upon its exposure to the bacteria that live in your mouth.
That means you don't necessarily have to ingest it to get its benefits, you just have to get it an adequate exposure of it into your mouth.
Along this line of thought, some mouthwashes and toothpastes are formulated with xylitol.
Studies have shown that the use of toothpaste that contains even 10% xylitol, twice a day, can produce an anti-cavity effect. Many brands of toothpaste are formulated with even higher percentages.
Look for xylitol to be listed first in the product's ingredients list.
As mentioned above, in some cases it can be hard to determine the precise per serving amount of xylitol that is contained in a product. This difficulty can be associated with the fact that xylitol is more expensive than sugar (sucrose), sorbitol (another polyol that seems to be less effective at reducing tooth decay), and artificial sweeteners. Some manufacturers will add a token amount of xylitol to their products, so they can make the claim, but will then balance out their needed sweetening effect with other sweeteners. Since the product contains a low level of xylitol, the manufacturer is hesitant to document its specific amount.
The hope is that the "Nutrition Facts" labeling on all products claiming xylitol content will clearly document its precise per serving content. Manufacturers of quality products understand the importance of clearly documenting this information so you, the consumer, can regulate your exposure. These companies should be rewarded for their efforts by way of you, the consumer, selecting them for purchase.
When precise documentation is not available, keep the following in mind.
- When comparing two unknown products, typically the best choice is the one that has xylitol listed as its first ingredient.
- Xylitol has a relative sweetness on par with sucrose (table sugar). If a product can be made sweet using sucrose in its recipe, it should be possible to develop a nearly identical product using xylitol. If you see a xylitol-containing product whose list of ingredients lists other sweeteners, the manufacturer has quite possibly decided to skimp on the use of xylitol in favor of cheaper compounds.
- With mints, candy, and chewing gum, as a rule of thumb and as a preference, look for products where xylitol is shown first in the product's list of ingredients. Short of this, and once again as a rule of thumb, it seems unlikely that a product does contain a significant dosing of xylitol unless it is listed as one of the product's first three ingredients. This same warning applies to products where some other sweetener is listed ahead of xylitol.