Xylitol is a naturally-occurring substance found in the birch tree and in many fruits and vegetables. Its chemical structure resembles a cross between a sugar and an alcohol—but it is neither. Xylitol is used as an FDA-approved artificial sweetener that can also assist in the prevention of tooth decay, so Mullica Hill dentists Drs. Bo and Christina Levitsky would like to share some information about xylitol’s safety for kids.
Because bacteria in the mouth cannot use xylitol as an energy source, oral care products like toothpaste and mouthwash often contain xylitol to help alleviate dry mouth symptoms and prevent tooth decay. When extracted from birch wood, xylitol can be used as an active ingredient in other medicines as well. Its capability to eliminate or reduce the effects of bad bacteria extends to those that cause ear infections in young children.
Xylitol tastes sweet like sugar but contains fewer calories and is absorbed more slowly by the body, reducing the likelihood of dramatic blood sugar spikes. These characteristics make xylitol an ideal sugar substitute for diabetics. Unlike other artificial sweeteners and sucrose (actual sugar), xylitol reduces the bacteria that cause tooth decay in the saliva.
The unaltered natural xylitol present in fruit and vegetables should be safe for kids, barring allergies or a major produce binge. Cavity prevention medicines containing xylitol that are used in pediatric dentistry typically range from 7 to 20 grams per day (divided into three to five doses). More than 20 total grams of xylitol per day is not recommended for children.
Like other artificial sweeteners, exceeding the recommended intake of xylitol can cause pronounced physical discomfort, including diarrhea and intestinal gas. Because children’s medicines containing xylitol may taste as good as regular candy, parents need to be careful that kids don’t eat more than the recommended amount!
WebMD® warns that not enough is known about the potential risks of xylitol intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so pregnant or nursing mothers should avoid using xylitol to err on the side of caution.
If you buy sugar-free items a lot, it’s good to be aware of which items in your kitchen, fridge, or pantry may contain xylitol:
Xylitol in any amount can be toxic to dogs and cats. If you have reason to believe your pet has swallowed anything containing xylitol—especially if it also contains chocolate—take them to the vet immediately. Xylitol in the proper doses can be very useful and safe to promote better oral health for both adults and kids. If you have any questions about xylitol, its uses, and its safety, contact us at Mullica Hill Family Dental today!
The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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