Sugar-free gum that is sweetened by the natural sugar xylitol is considered to be a useful part of your dental hygiene routine. Primarily known for its decay-killing properties – xylitol is thought to reduce harmful oral bacteria by up to 90% – xylitol gum may also have beneficial effects on your teeth's enamel. What effects does xylitol gum have on your enamel and can it repair damage?
How Xylitol Gum Works on Tooth Enamel
When you chew a piece of gum, your mouth automatically makes more saliva. From your enamel's perspective, saliva is a good thing. As well as washing away harmful substances such as acids and sugars, your saliva also contains minerals such as calcium and phosphate. Exposing your enamel to these minerals helps keep it strong and healthy by replacing minerals that may otherwise be lost.
As well as boosting your saliva production, a xylitol gum may also help strengthen weakened or damaged enamel by changing the environment in your mouth. When you chew on xylitol gum, which is relatively alkaline, your saliva gets a boost in its pH scale. The pH levels in your mouth vary, depending on what you've been eating or drinking. For example, if you've been eating or drinking acidic and potentially tooth-harming things, your mouth may have a low pH. The alkalinity of xylitol may raise your pH levels, making your mouth less acidic.
When your mouth is less acidic, your saliva may have less acid to work on. The calcium and phosphate in your saliva may therefore become focused on finding areas on your teeth that may be low in these minerals to top them up.
Does Xylitol Repair Damage to Tooth Enamel?
Chewing xylitol gum may help remineralise your tooth enamel, putting your teeth in a better position to cope with the acids and sugars in your foods on an everyday basis. This may help prevent issues with future dental erosion and decay by keeping your teeth healthier. If you have problems with weak or damaged enamel, this may also help stop further damage.
However, xylitol gum may not be enough in itself to help you repair existing enamel damage. There is some evidence that xylitol can repair the deeper layers of enamel in your teeth by putting minerals back in there; however, xylitol gum may not be able to remineralise surface enamel enough to make a difference.
Chewing on xylitol gum is a good habit to introduce into your daily oral hygiene routine and may well help keep your teeth in a good condition. However, if you already have tooth enamel damage, you still need to visit a clinic like Complete Dental Care to have it repaired.