A family dentist provides advice to adults who are experiencing tooth decay. This problem is much more common in children, so dentists want to figure out why this continues to occur in their adult patients. Genetics has a role, with some individuals being more susceptible to developing cavities. Nevertheless, certain strategies can reduce or even eliminate the problem. One is to chew sugar-free gum containing the ingredient xylitol.
This sugar alcohol is found in berries, plums, and vegetables such as corn and cauliflower. Manufacturers of chewing gum extract xylitol and process it for their products.
The American Dental Association has issued its Seal of Approval to five sugar-free gum brands, some containing xylitol. Many consumers prefer gum with this ingredient because they want to avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame.
The Problem With Plaque
Sticky plaque develops on teeth when people eat sugary foods and other carbohydrates and do not brush soon enough afterward. Many individuals eat foods and drink beverages throughout the day. Brushing usually only takes place two or three times a day. That makes the development of plaque a regular process.
Plaque contains sticky bacteria. These bacteria produce acid that causes tooth decay. The sticky quality allows the microorganisms to stay on the teeth until brushed away.
Advantages of Chewing Gum
Xylitol prevents the bacteria from generating this acid. It also interferes with the stickiness of the bacteria. Plaque gradually forms into hard tartar, but when someone chews gum containing the ingredient xylitol, this process is disrupted.
Chewing gum also has the advantage of stimulating saliva production. Saliva has protective effects on tooth enamel because a dry mouth is more prone to tooth decay. In addition, saliva carries the enamel-strengthening minerals calcium and phosphorous to teeth surfaces. Saliva is the body's natural defense against cavities.
Everyone still must continue with their routine dental cleanings and exams. A certain amount of tartar will still form, and this material is irritating to the gum tissue. A dentist or hygienist uses special skills and tools to safely clear tartar away.
Also, chewing gum is not a replacement for good oral hygiene practices. Brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing every day are essential oral health activities.
At the next routine dental appointment, a patient may ask the dentist about xylitol and the advantages of chewing sugar-free gum. Dental practitioners are enthusiastic about helping prevent problems with the teeth and gums. They are always ready to offer advice on improvements a patient can make.