You’ve probably heard of the “duck test”. You know… if something looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck… you can assume that it’s probably a duck.
Unfortunately the “duck test” doesn’t apply when it comes to Xylitol gums. Gums may look alike, taste alike and claim the same great benefits, but not all should be called “xylitol” gums and not all are equally good for your oral health.
With creative packaging, marketing and buzz words; gum manufacturers lead us to believe that just because xylitol is listed as an ingredient, you are getting the same cavity preventing benefits as gums made with 100% xylitol as the sweetener. That’s simply not true! In fact, the big gum manufacturers began using Xylitol for the “cooling mouth feel” of their products and had little thought for health. But since the buzzword “Xylitol” has become a popular health ingredient, they’ve jumped on board-still, the amounts of xylitol used in their products is non-effective for dental health.
When choosing a xylitol gum there are a few things you’ll want to consider to be sure you are getting a xylitol gum that will give you the maximum dental health benefits.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- The product must contain a high concentration of xylitol (since you need to get about 6 grams per day). Read the ingredients listed on the package and if xylitol is the first ingredient, then there’s probably enough of it to be effective.
- Does the product contain 100% xylitol as a sweetener or does it contain other sweeteners with xylitol being only one of them.
- Are the other ingredients natural, artificial or chemical? Like colors, flavors, preservatives or stabilizers?
To give you an example of what to look for; use the tips above when comparing these two gums.
A popular name brand gum with Xylitol
Xylitol Content:.17 grams per piece
Ingredients: Sorbitol, Maltitol, Gum Base, Mannitol, ( listed before xylitol) Xylitol, Natural and Artificial Flavoring, Less than 2% of: Acacia, Acesulfame Potassium, ( artificial sweetener) BHT for freshness (shown to be linked to cancer, developmental toxicity, allergies, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, biochemical or cellular level changes.) Blue 1 Lake, (artificial color made from petrochemicals sourced from the colorless runoff of crude oil mixed with nitrates and sulfuric acid.) Candelilla Wax, Glycerin, Soy Lecithin, Sucralose, (artificial sweetener) Titanium Dioxide, Yellow 5 Lake ( artificial color made from petrochemicals sourced from the colorless runoff of crude oil mixed with nitrates and sulfuric acid.)
Xylitol Content:.72 grams per piece
Ingredients: Xylitol, gum base, natural flavor (peppermint oil), vegetable glycerin, gum arabic, soy lecithin, beeswax
As you can see with the name brand gum, Xylitol is listed as the 5th ingredient with only.17 grams per piece compared to the Spry gum which lists xylitol as the first ingredient with.72 grams per piece. You would need to eat 24 sticks! of the name brand gum per day to get the same amount of Xylitol as the 6 pieces of Spry gum.
In addition, the name brand gum uses a variety of sweeteners; some sugar alcohols and some artificial sweeteners like sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium, while Spry gum only uses 100% xylitol. (Xylitol – a sugar alcohol that is non-cariogenic, a low 13 on the glycemic index and only 3 calories per gram.)
And just as all xylitol gums are not created equal, conversely not all sugar alcohols are either. Generally, sugar alcohols like xylitol, isomalt, sorbitol, lactitol, erythritol, and mannitol all help prevent dental caries (decay) in varying degrees. Sorbitol, listed as the first ingredient in the name brand gum does not completely prevent decay. In fact, many of the sugar alcohols feed cavity-forming bacteria to some degree which causes acidic waste eating away at your enamel and causing tooth decay. Those sugar alcohols are considered to be a low-cariogenic sweetener rather than non-cariogenic-like xylitol. (Bacteria cannot feed on xylitol and cause decay)
In terms of cavity prevention, sorbitol is not a better choice than the regular use of xylitol-sweetened products. And blends of Sorbitol and Xylitol as well as the other sugar alcohols have been found to be less effective at preventing tooth decay than 100% xylitol-only products especially if you have low salivary flow.
And lastly, notice that the Spry gum contains a short list of all-natural ingredients compared to the name brand gum which uses a laundry list of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and fillers.
Many manufacturers dilute the benefits of xylitol by using smaller, ineffective amounts, and adding cheaper less effective sweeteners. So be sure to look for chewing gums that are 100% xylitol sweetened with close to 1 gram per piece. About 6-10 grams a day is shown to be effective, and chewing 2 pieces of 100% xylitol sweetened gum 3 x a day after every meal for a minimum of 5 minutes will provide the maximum cavity-busting benefits you want.
So remember, when looking for a xylitol gum that will give you all the oral health benefits you and your family are looking for, don’t be sucked in by the hype or by lower priced products. Check to make sure that “xylitol” is the first ingredient; that its 100% xylitol sweetened and it has only natural ingredients. Only THEN, can you call it a DUCK!