Cancun, MX— From February 14 to 19, Xlear Inc. hosted an educational conference for media, here, on the antimicrobial natural sweetener xylitol. Daily seminars conducted by pioneering xylitol researchers, dental hygienists and other experts highlighted the benefits of xylitol for oral and overall systemic health.

Early research on the antibacterial and systemic effects of xylitol, including population studies in Belize, was presented and expanded upon. Dental hygienists—winners of a Xlear contest for proving the effects of xylitol on their patients—presented some of their results. They found reductions in plaque over short periods of time, often displaying their findings through before and after photos.

Much of the discussion during and after the presentations centered on reframing dental and overall health from “manage the damage” to health promotion. In this endeavor, advocates argued, xylitol is a major tool. Through interactive presentations and scientific education, attendees learned about xylitol’s health benefits and the challenges it faces for widespread acceptance.

The agreed-upon recommendation for xylitol exposure is five times a day for optimal dental health. Benefits can include a reduction in morning breath and plaque buildup, as well as other potential protective effects against bacterial infection outside the dental cavity. Some speakers emphasized the pleasing taste of xylitol, which is available in finished products like gum, mints, toothpaste and mouthwash. They also noted the cooling effect it can have on the mouth.

Xylitol, a sugar alcohol derived from the wood-based sugar xylose, helps prevent cavities by interfering with the adhesion of bacteria in the dental cavity. Data indicate xylitol may aid in the re-mineralization of already decayed teeth. Xylitol exposure early in a child’s development may be especially effective in creating a healthy bacterial environment in the mouth. It was estimated that 80% of children in Finland, where xylitol has seen widespread introduction at an early age, do not have dental caries, whereas 80% of U.S. children do.

“The whole purpose of doing these conferences is that dentists should know about xylitol,” says Nate Jones, president of Xlear Inc., adding that in the search for a cost-effective means to prevent cavities, xylitol is the answer.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2011