Preventing cavities

Everyone wants to know how to prevent cavities, and the answer is simple — practice good oral hygiene and eat foods that don’t contain too much sugar. But getting kids to do either of those is next to impossible. Luckily, there is a better choice available — it’s called xylitol and it is a type of sugar that has been proven to help prevent cavities.

A cavity is a result of a disease process, just as diabetes is a disease process. If your children get cavities, they have Strep cavity-causing bacteria and they probably acquired it from you. Brushing teeth and limiting sugar will help stop the bacteria from proliferating, thereby stopping cavities in their tracks.

Xylitol, pronounced zeye-li-tall, is a natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables like berries and corn, and is usually extracted from birch bark. It helps prevent cavities by changing the environment of the mouth to hinder the growth of the bacteria.

Xylitol is organic and was approved by the FDA in 1963. It can be found in chewing gum, breath mints, tooth wipes, lollipops and many other types of candies. We can bake with it and even sweeten our coffee with it. It is on the shelves of health food stores and is widely available on the Internet.

Xylitol must be used consistently for it to be effective. If we use too much, it may cause a laxative effect, like mannitol or sorbitol, and studies show that if we use too little, it has no effect. It has fewer calories than cane sugar (2.4 calories versus 4 calories per gram, respectively) and it is recommended for diabetics.

Children crave candy and sugary snacks throughout the year. Xylitol is a guilt-free choice for parents to allow their children to eat treats.

Now, all we have to do is focus on the brushing! Sweet.

Lois Jackson and Associates pediatric dental office [505 Laguardia Pl, Apt L4 in Manhattan (212) 995-8888] [16 Court St. Suite 2211 in Brooklyn (718) 855-8833]. Open weekdays and Saturdays.