An advocate of xylitol _ a natural sweetener obtained from birch, evergreen oak, strawberries and other plants _ in preventive dentistry, professor emeritus Kauko K Makinen of the Institute of Dentistry, University of Turku in Finland, explained that dental caries are a multifactorial problem and since the 1970s it has been known that it's a transmissible infectious disease caused by mutans streptococci, or MS.
Feeding on sugar, the bacteria ferment carbohydrates, which leads to acidity that dissolves the enamel of the teeth.This process of demineralisation can be reversed by remineralisation with calcium, phosphate and fluoride.A cavity, however, will eventually occur when demineralisation outpaces remineralisation.While bacterial infection starts the caries process, it may not develop into a disease unless exacerbated by dietary and oral hygiene factors.
"One strategy in preventing dental caries is to promote dietary sweeteners that can assist in reducing its incidence," says Prof Makinen
."For instance, by replacing _ in selected consumer items _ fermentable carbohydrates, especially sucrose, with a substitute with no or very low cariogenic potential."He
recommends xylitol, which has been approved by public agencies and several national dental organisations to be used in confectionery and in certain oral hygiene products.
"Good oral hygiene requires you to brush your teeth after every meal and snack," he
advises."That may not be practical for many people with a busy lifestyle so chewing gum containing xylitol is an alternative.However, xylitol gum is not a substitute for brushing but a part of multiple intervention for better protection against dental caries." Prof Makinen
adds that chewing gum is popular, especially among youngsters, but sugar-containing gum is not good for their teeth.