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Does xylitol make your teeth healthier?

Does xylitol make your teeth healthier?

Q. I’ve heard that chewing gum sweetened with xylitol helps prevent cavities. Is that true?

A. Maybe. Xylitol, a sugarless sweetener usually derived from birch trees, can be found in gum, lozenges, and candies. Some websites for products with xylitol boast that it inhibits bacterial growth and helps prevent tooth decay. But the evidence is still unclear as to whether gum sweetened with xylitol—and in the amounts typically used—offers any benefit over sugarless gum in general, which can help protect teeth by increasing saliva production. Instead, look for gum with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, which means the manufacturer has provided scientific evidence that the product is safe and effective.

Read our tips for keeping your dental care costs down

Note that xylitol can be dangerous for dogs and cats, even in small amounts. So be sure to keep any xylitol-sweetened products well out of reach of your furry friends. 

See which non-sugar sweeteners scored highest in our taste tests of 11 brands, from agave nectar to xylitol. 

A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

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