As a dental hygienist of 30 years, I often wonder why my patients continued to struggle with tooth decay. In 1972, my parents immigrated to the USA from the Philippines. My mother and father received dental insurance through their work, allowing us kids to receive preventative dental care, a luxury my mom could only dream of in her youth. During our teen years, my sister and I would leave our 6-month checkup with several cavities. How can that be? We all used the same fluoridated toothpaste, had fluoride in our school as part of the swish and spit program, then additional fluoride at the dentist every 6 months.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), studies have shown that water fluoridation can reduce the amount of tooth decay in children’s teeth by 18-40%: a high statistic, given that cavities still affect 19.5% of children age 2-5 and 22.9% aged 6-19, even though the CDC reports 72% of the population is using fluoridated water.
While practicing near a retirement community, I noticed that a patient of mine, Mrs. Smith, continued to get cavities every three months regardless of her diligent flossing, brushing, and applying a prescription fluoridated tooth gel to prevent decay. Mrs. Smith was using sorbitol hard candies, to help her dry mouth, which promotes acid attacks, which caused her enamel to break down.
Since dental disease is mostly preventable, I began to wonder¦ if fluoride in the water typically makes the enamel harder, then why does the enamel breakdown more often in the US than in Europe? Why do patients need the hardest surface in their body drilled open to place a filling? Why do teeth have to be extracted? Why are people dying due to dental infection?
Let’s think of a tooth like a castle, fluoride works on the surface to regularly patch the areas from acid attacks that are bombarding the castle throughout the day. But, what if we can do something about the acid assault before they even reach the castle walls? How can we keep our castle walls from becoming brittle?
Enter xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener that not only stops the acid attack from the cavity-causing bacteria, it also reduces the stickiness of those harmful bugs to our enamel. A recent publication by the Journal for Ear Nose and Throat doctors stated, Xylitol has anti-adhesive effects on micro-organisms like Streptococcus pneumonia and Streptococcus mutans, inhibiting their growth. These are the main cavity-causing germs in our mouths. Think of xylitol as your army of knights that disarm the germs that cause cavities. Physically speaking, it helps our teeth stay strong by increasing healthy saliva that’s rich in calcium and phosphate proteins, the building blocks of our castle walls.
Studies at the CDC on dental disease have stated that daily exposure to both fluoride and xylitol would be beneficial in reducing the cost of restoring teeth and warding off cavities. That’s right, a natural sweetener that helps to protect our teeth! Using fluoride toothpaste and Striving for 5 exposures of xylitol each day would help reduce dental decay in most age groups. Looking into this further, I found that you would have to chew a minimum of 55 pieces of sugar-free gum for 20 minutes every day to get the same beneficial dose of xylitol that 10-pieces of 100% xylitol-sweetened gum will give you.
My experience as a dental professional has taught me that prevention is much more affordable and convenient than treatment. After learning the benefits of xylitol, I had to share the exciting news with my family! My elderly parents now protect their teeth for less than $1 a day by chewing 100% xylitol-sweetened gum and 100% xylitol-sweetened candy at bedtime. Next, they brush with a xylitol and fluoride toothpaste. All of which are from their local health food store. So, defend your family’s teeth with xylitol fluoride to prevent tooth decay before it even stands a chance.
Rhoda Pepito Kublickis is a multi-state licensed dental hygienist from the Philippines. She received her Masters of Health Science with Honors from Nova Southeastern University. Shes currently the President of the Florida Dental Hygiene Association & South East Xylitol Educator for Wasatch Sales Force, Inc., the leading manufacturer of xylitol dental defense products. She’s the mother of three sons, two of which are Marines, and her dog, Charlie Brown.