Does Xylitol Work?

Xylitol is often used as a sugar substitute, but does xylitol work for medicinal purposes? The product has been shown to prevent dental cavities. It is also claimed to be beneficial for treating dry mouth and preventing ear infections in children, but more research is necessary to prove the effectiveness of xylitol for these uses.

Does Xylitol Really Work?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar substitute. It is also claimed to be beneficial when used medicinally for various purposes, including:
  • Preventing ear infections in children when used in gums, lozenges, or syrups
  • Preventing dental cavities (known medically as caries) when used in gums, candies, foods, or toothpastes
  • Treating dry mouth when used in gums, lozenges, mouthwashes, or toothpastes.
You might wonder if xylitol really works. This article will address the available scientific evidence for these claimed xylitol benefits.

Xylitol Research and Clinical Studies

It has been thoroughly demonstrated that xylitol can help prevent dental cavities. Studies have shown that large doses (7 to 20 grams per day) as chewing gum or candy can help decrease the incidence of cavities. These studies used special chewing gums with high xylitol content. However, most chewing gums, even those that claim to protect teeth, do not contain nearly enough xylitol to help. In fact, it is often difficult (if not impossible) to determine exactly how much xylitol many chewing gums contain. Although these gums with low xylitol content probably will not help prevent tooth decay, they certainly will not promote tooth decay (in other words, they might not help, but they won't harm, either).
A few studies have shown that large doses of xylitol (8.4 to 10 grams per day) can help prevent ear infections in preschool-age children. However, more research is necessary to confirm these findings.
There isn't much strong scientific evidence suggesting that xylitol works for treating dry mouth, although such products seem to provide relief for many people. Since chewing any type of gum or sucking on any type of candy can help with dry mouth, it can be assumed that xylitol candies or chewing gums would provide relief without increasing the risk of dental cavities, like sugar-containing products can.
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