Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that helps reduce tooth decay, eliminate bad breath, and relieve dry mouth. Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables. It is extracted from birch wood to make medicine.
Xylitol is widely used as a sugar substitute and in “sugar-free” chewing gums, mints, and other candies. However, sorbitol is the most commonly used sweetener in sugarless gums because it is less expensive than xylitol and easier to make into commercial products.
In the mouth, most sugars break down and create an acidic environment which promotes tooth decay. Xylitol does not break down like other sugars so bacteria cannot use xylitol to grow. Over time, xylitol can actually inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth. This decrease in oral bacteria can reduce tooth decay and help eliminate bad breath.
The benefits of xylitol don’t stop there. Xylitol can help reduce the amount of insulin required to regulate blood-sugar levels in diabetics. As a medicine, xylitol is used to prevent middle ear infections (otitis media) in young children, and as a sugar substitute for people with diabetes.
Dog owners should know that xylitol can be toxic to dogs, even when the relatively small amounts from candies are eaten. If your dog eats a product that contains xylitol, it is important to take the dog to a veterinarian immediately.