The Buzz about Xylitol

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in fibrous vegetables and fruits, corn cobs and hardwood trees (like birch). It is used worldwide as a low-calorie sweetener, and has been clinically proven to reduce cavities and help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Our bodies make up to 15 grams (four teaspoons) of xylitol daily. It looks, feels and tastes like ordinary sugar (sucrose), but has 40 percent fewer calories and 75 percent fewer carbohydrates than sugar. Additionally, xylitol is not easily converted to fat and has almost no effect on insulin levels, making it a great alternative for diabetics and dieters and also is considered safe for pregnant and nursing women, babies and children.
We all know eating sugar causes tooth decay by creating an acidic condition in the mouth. Acidity strips minerals from tooth enamel, causing it to weaken and be more vulnerable to bacteria, leading to tooth decay or demineralization.
So, how does Xylitol help? Bacteria is unable to metabolize xylitol and therefore won’t produce the acids responsible for demineralization and decay. Secondly, xylitol interferes with bacterial polysaccharide formation, which significantly reduces the adhesive capabilities of the bacteria. The bacteria literally lose their main mechanisms to cause dental havoc! In addition, xylitol stimulates saliva which is beneficial to the neutral alkaline levels in your mouth.
To help prevent cavities, you need approximately six to eight grams of xylitol taken (chewed or ingested) throughout the day. If used only occasionally or just once a day, xylitol may not be effective, regardless of the amount. Use xylitol at least three times each day – five times is preferable – for at least five minutes right after meals and snacks. Between meals, opt for xylitol-sweetened products that encourage chewing/sucking to keep the xylitol in contact with your teeth. The xylitol effect is long lasting and possibly permanent. So go ahead… chew gum, use breath mints, just make sure they contain xylitol!

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Back to School Smiles

It’s that time of year again! Parents everywhere have picked up school supplies, packed lunches and sent their little darlings off for another year of school. Did you remember to include a new toothbrush in that list of school supplies?

Continuing good oral health habits, like brushing and flossing twice a day does more than send your little one to school with minty fresh breath. Studies have shown that kids with healthy pain-free teeth have more success in school because they leave the classroom less and are able to concentrate on their studies and not their bothersome teeth.  Scary as it seems, tooth decay is now the No. 1 chronic infectious disease in children. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is five times more common in kids than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.
Parents should realize that a child’s mouth is a gateway for their entire body and overall health. If a child’s tooth decay goes untreated, the child is subject to many harmful infections.

The care of primary teeth is just as important as the care of permanent teeth, so parents should make sure their child’s first teeth are kept healthy. There are many ways that parents can ensure the best dental health of their kids:

  • Brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush; hard bristles can break down the teeth and gums and cause infection. Don’t forget the floss! Many companies make fun, kid friendly flossers now, making the whole process so much easier.
  • Make sure your child is drinking enough water; it contains small levels of fluoride, which protects teeth.
  • Don’t use bottles or sippy cups as a way to keep your child busy as these containers allow sugary drinks to attack the teeth from behind.
  • Choose healthy snacks for your kids. Fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses and nuts are best. Avoid sugary foods and even carbohydrates like crackers which can stick to the teeth giving plaque fuel for causing cavities.

Food for Thought

We’ve noticed this come up several times in the news recently, and while this week’s blog is not directly related to dentistry, we felt it was important information concerning our food supply.

 

According to a group of 150 scientists, that includes a former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is putting human health at risk and driving up medical costs. This group, along with a group of 50 farmers and ranchers who have opted out of antibiotic use, released statements back in Sept. 2012 calling on the FDA and Congress to work together to regulate the use of antibiotics in livestock. Both groups concluded that the overuse of antibiotics is contributing to a health crisis. Louise Slaughter, a New York Representative  joined in calling for regulation of animal agriculture’s use of non-therapeutic antibiotics. She said, “Every year, more than 100,000 Americans die from bacterial infections acquired in hospitals, and seventy percent of these infections are resistant to drugs commonly used to treat them. This abuse and overuse must stop.”

 

Donald Kennedy, former FDA commissioner  said: “There’s no question that routinely administering non-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to food animals contributes to antibiotic resistance.”  He stated that the FDA’s current  approach asking the drug industry to voluntarily stop selling antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed, was not enough. Kennedy, who also served as editor-in-chief of Science magazine for eight years, said: “Unless it reaches the industry as a regulatory requirement it will not be taken seriously.” Three decades after the FDA determined that growth-promoting uses of antibiotics in agriculture were potentially harmful to human health, its own data shows that 80% of all antimicrobial drugs sold nationally are used in animal agriculture.

The scientists said that while the medical community has done a good job educating doctors and reducing prescriptions, the agriculture industry was lagging behind. While data linking antibiotic resistance to non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics is widely accepted, they are still added in massive quantities to animal feed to promote faster growth and to compensate for diseases caused by poor diet and overcrowded living conditions of the animals. While the doses the animals receive in their feed is considered to be a “low dose” , this can be more harmful in producing drug-resistant bacteria. Alexander Fleming warned after accepting his Nobel Prize in 1945 for his discovery of penicillin , “there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing the microbes to nonlethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.

We found this story about Russ Kremer, a Missouri hog farmer who caught a blood disease after being gored in the knee by one of his pigs. He was told by his doctor that he had the same antibiotic resistance as his pigs. His infection was resistant to six out of seven antibiotics used to treat it, Kremer said.

Kremer said he changed his practice when he found out the feed was responsible.  “I exterminated my herd, brought in wholesome feedstuff without antibiotics. In the last 23 years my pigs have been drug free, they have less than 1% mortality and I’ve saved $16,000.”

The Scoop on Calcium

We’ve all been told for years that calcium is vital for bone health. It is common knowledge that older adults, particularly women over 50 should take calcium supplements to keep their aging bones strong and prevent osteoporosis related fractures. Until recently the main debate has been about which type of calcium supplements were best, whether the pills can be a cause of kidney stones, and what other supplements need to be taken in conjunction with the calcium. In a recent draft recommendation from the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force it was concluded that supplemental calcium and vitamin D don’t prevent fractures in post-menopausal women.

Here’s what you should know. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body and is found primarily in your bones and teeth. Bones and teeth are living, active tissue and they constantly absorb and release calcium and other minerals. Calcium is not only important for your bones and teeth to remain healthy and strong, but it has many other important functions such as regulating your heart beat and blood pressure, conducting nerve impulses, allowing your muscles to contract and helping your blood clot. If you do not take in enough calcium, your body will leach it from your teeth and bones, which can weaken them.
According to the September 2012 issue of the John’s Hopkins Wellness Letter, many researchers have been critical of the conclusions made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task force, saying they have misrepresented the research, or at least put too negative a spin on it. Calcium is vital to overall health and it is important to make sure you are getting enough in your diet. The most common recommendation for calcium intake ranges from 800-1200 mg daily, but much of that can come from a calcium rich diet. Foods such as dairy, soy, fish, broccoli and almonds are good natural sources of calcium. If your diet falls short of the daily recommended calcium intake, supplements can be beneficial, buy there is little added benefit from taking doses higher than 500 mg at a time. Since the body absorbs larger amounts less efficiently, it is best to spread your calcium intake throughout the day – which is another reason why food sources are preferable. High doses of calcium are known to increase the risk of certain types of kidney stones, in contrast the foods that are naturally rich in calcium seem to protect against kidney stones.
Bottom line… talk to your doctor about your calcium needs, chances are if you eat a good, balanced diet, you may be getting all the calcium you need.