Looking For Some Sweet, Healthy Stocking Stuffers?

Armen Hareyan's picture
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This holiday season, give a gift that not only tastes sweet but fights cavities at the same time -- food products containing xylitol.

"While we recommend this natural sweetener to patients throughout the year, the Christmas and New Year's season is the perfect time to raise even greater awareness," said Jean Honny, president of the California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA).

"Dental decay affects almost every resident in the United States, causing untold costs in time, money, and suffering," she said. "Fortunately, this amazing sweetener can actually help to prevent decay."

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Xylitol is available in chewing gum (be sure xylitol is the first ingredient listed), mints, toothpaste, mouthwash, nasal spray, jam, catsup and other products and can also be purchased in a granulated form. Look in stores and online and put some gum, mints, or toothpaste in stockings this year.

Not only can xylitol prevent decay but it can also reverse the early stages of decay. It works by altering the chemistry of mouth bacteria. Decay-causing bacteria are contagious, and passed from parents to children when kissing or sharing spoons or bites of food. So xylitol actually reduces the number of bacteria babies get from their mothers.

Originally studied in Finland, xylitol has been used in foods since the 1960s, and is approved for use in 26 countries, including the USA. It is a natural sweetener produced from corn, fruits, and other natural sources. It is equal in sweetness to table sugar but with 40 percent fewer calories.

Numerous studies have confirmed the original findings and revealed other advantages to using xylitol products, including increased salivary flow in people affected by dry mouth, prevention of ear infections, calorie control, and approved for diabetics.

There are only two cautions regarding xylitol. First, it can have a laxative effect when it is initially used, so begin slowly. This is difficult because it tastes so good and has no aftertaste. Second, just like grapes, raisins, and chocolate, it is toxic to dogs and has even caused a few deaths. So keep your delicious xylitol containing products out of reach, CHDA recommends.

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