Remember the ad that went “dentists recommend sugar-free gum for their patients who chew gum?” Now they’re trying to convince us to take up gum-chewing; yes, even to give gum to our small children to “protect” their teeth.
The idea is that sugar-free gum using the sweetner, xylitol, is protective to teeth because xylitol has mild antimicrobial properties and might reduce mouth bacteria such that it prevents cavities. Ohhh-kay. But according to the research the gum has to have a certain amount of xylitol–quite a lot–to have an effect. The amounts aren’t listed on the package. Instead you’re supposed to judge by the rule of thumb that there is “probably” enough if xylitol is the first ingredient on the gum wrapper. But even if there is enough xylitol to have an effect, you still have to chew two pieces of gum, three times a day, at minimum, to have a positive effect.
Now, the food industry is also suggesting that if your kid is too young to chew gum, you should give her “xylitol syrup” everyday. What a coup for the xylitol makers, eh?
Me, I won’t be shoveling an extra dose of artificial sweetner into my kids any time soon. And no one is going to convince me that the grocery check out line is now a health food aisle. Considering that xylitol is supposed to counteract the problem of kids getting too much refined sugar–which is hard on teeth–I have a better idea. Cut down on the refined sugar. Gee what a novel concept.
Oh, and brush your teeth.