According to the American Dental Association, you should brush your teeth at least twice a day. Nonetheless, brushing your teeth is almost pointless if you don't have the right technique and you don't use the right materials. With so many types of toothpaste on the market, it's sometime difficult to know which brand and product to use. Learn more about xylitol toothpaste, and find out why this product could boost your brushing regime.
Ingredients in toothpaste
Toothpaste (or dentifrice) is available as a paste, powder or gel and helps you remove the plaque that settles on your teeth during the day. Without a good brushing technique, toothpaste is still ineffective, and all these products rely on the mechanics of a good toothbrush.
Toothpaste generally contains:
- A mild abrasive to help remove the debris and stains on your teeth
- Fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel
- Flavoring products to make the product taste nicer
- Stabilizers and thickeners to make the toothpaste easier to use
Toothpaste also generally contains a detergent that creates foam when you brush with water. Some toothpaste also contains sweetening agents to give the product a more palatable taste.
The problem with some types of toothpaste
The clinical ingredients in toothpaste don't generally taste good. It's hard enough for dentists to persuade people to clean their teeth (especially children), so manufacturers often use ingredients that will give their products a more appealing taste. Unfortunately, some of these products add little value to toothpaste.
Foaming agents and artificial flavorings don't normally make toothpaste more effective. In fact, many of these ingredients are quite acidic, and, over time, these types of toothpaste may actually harm your teeth. As such, many dentists now recommend products that use more natural ingredients to look after your teeth.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that comes from the fibrous part of certain plants. The product is naturally sweet, but, unlike other sweeteners, xylitol is less acidic, which means the toothpaste helps maintain the natural pH balance in your mouth. By controlling the amount of bacteria in your mouth, xylitol can help prevent tooth decay.
Although xylitol is relatively new on the market, several studies suggest that toothpaste with this active ingredient is an effective way to help look after your teeth and gums.
A 2008 study investigated whether xylitol could help avoid the biofilms that can cause tooth decay. Researchers used six bacterial species as part of the test. The results showed that, after a 48-hour incubation period, xylitol had inhibited bacterial growth across all the test units. Another study in 2006 also showed how xylitol can help cut the risk of tooth decay.
Some international studies suggest that xylitol is particularly effective for children whose teeth start to erupt. In Finland, a study showed that children who used xylitol chewing gum saw a 30 to 60 percent reduction in tooth decay. Further follow-up studies showed that xylitol has a long-term preventive effect, too. Indeed, test subjects who continued to use xylitol during tooth eruption saw a preventive effect in excess of 70%.
Choosing xylitol products
In the United States, the FDA approves xylitol for use in dental products, but it's still a good idea to talk to your dentist before you switch products. You can buy xylitol toothpaste with or without added fluoride, and your dentist can help you understand the merits of both varieties. Other natural ingredients in toothpaste that can help you look after your teeth include baking soda, salt and tea tree oil.
Of course, any toothpaste is only effective as part of a robust dental hygiene regime. As well as brushing your teeth twice daily, you should also floss between your teeth every day. You should also cut down on sugary foods, and avoid bad habits like smoking and chewing tobacco.
Xylitol is an interesting new product that could help cut the risk of tooth decay. If you want to understand more about the benefits of xylitol, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist. Some practices even have a 24-hour dentist who can assist you at hours more convenient to your work or school schedules.