Dry mouth, dentists and sugar that helps

August 5, 2009


If you are taking a number of different medicines then that can be a cause of what the UK’s leading dental health charity has identified as a cause for the growing problem of dry mouth syndrome.

Dry mouth increases exposure to the main causes of tooth loss, decay, erosion and gum disease because it affects our saliva levels and saliva is a natural protection against decay. Dry mouth is also associated with medical conditions such as diabetes and lupus, or natural factors such as aging and menopausal changes. It is particularly a problem for the elderly as they tend to be the group most likely to be taking multiple medications.

What can you do to prevent it? The old basics of brushing teeth after every meal and if you have a tendency to dry mouth use a gel, spray or sugar free sweets or chewing gum during the day that will promote saliva levels. The foods that cause decay need to be cut down too such as sugary foods and citrus acids that cause decay and erosion. If you are already a sufferer, then alcohol, caffeine and salty foods are on the banned list as well, and make sure you drink plenty of water.

A couple of useful resources on the tooth front for you are the British Dental Health Foundation website is available at www.dentalhealth.org.uk and you can also contact the Dental Helpline for free and impartial expert advice on 0845 063 1188 Monday to Friday.

Sugar to keep you out of the dentist’s chair?

You don’t normally hear a dentist extolling sugar, but new research published this month shows that adding just a small amount of a natural sugar alternative to your diet could prevent the majority of dental problems. Whilst it has been known for some time that xylitol, a natural sugar alternative found in plants and fruits, can help prevent tooth decay and plaque; the recent study, reported in July’s issue of Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, shows that xylitol could help prevent a massive 70% of tooth decay, just by consuming 8 grams of the sugar alternative a day.

What was especially interesting in this study was that it used xylitol in a syrup form, where most other studies to date have tended to use chewing gum containing xylitol. This means that just a small amount of xylitol can be added to cereals, hot drinks and baking is likely to be very effective at reducing tooth decay.

Another benefit is that is has nearly half as few calories as sugar, 75% less available carbohydrates, and a GI value of just 7 (about ten times lower than sugar), making it ideal for those looking for a healthy diet. Don’t go looking for the name xlylitol on the supermarket shelves though, it is marketed under the brand name Perfect Sweet and is in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and health stores.


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