Xylitol, a naturally occurring 5-carbon sugar alcohol, has gained momentum as both a natural sweetener and a deterrent of dental caries. Sugar-free chewing gums and candies made with xylitol have already received endorsements from several national dental associations. One company that has helped bring the benefits of xylitol to the forefront is Xlear Inc., manufacturer of the Spry dental defense system that includes a range of xylitol-sweetened gum and mints. The company noted products sweetened with xylitol create an unwelcome environment for bacteria, which prohibits bacteria from building and sticking to teeth in a xylitol-rich environment. The sweetener has also been shown to help increase mineral absorption in tooth enamel, thus increasing its strength.
Most consumers understand that a daily oral hygiene regimen of brushing and flossing is required; however, additions such as mouthwashes can potentially be more problematic than helpful. “Most mouthwashes contain antibacterial or antiseptic agents that indiscriminately kill bacteria in the mouth on contact, including beneficial bacteria. Other mouthwashes simply mask oral health problems with a breath freshening flavor,” said Jeffrey D. Hillman, Ph.D., chief scientific officer, ONI BioPharma Inc. “The substitution of a probiotic oral hygiene product can specifically target those bacteria that are known to adversely affect oral health. By reducing the levels of disease-causing bacteria in the mouth, one not only prevents oral diseases or helps existing problems, but also reduces some of the undesirable side effects of high levels of pathogenic bacteria, including bad breath.” ONI BioPharma recently launched ProBiora3, a clinically-tested mouth rinse. The oral hygiene formula addresses the two main challenges that can plague mouths: tooth decay and gum disease, caused when specific bacteria that is a normal part of dental plaque reaches high levels. “Daily supplementation of friendly oral bacteria has been show to promote good oral health by inhibiting the growth of the bacteria that can cause disease. This probiotic approach is a very natural way to achieve a health balance of oral bacteria,” Hillman said.
Diet also plays an important role in good dental hygiene. Refined carbohydrate foods and sugars can cause dental decay. Sticky, sweet foods and sugar from carbohydrates adhere to the teeth, providing food for bacteria to flourish. The bacteria leaves fermented sugar residue around the teeth, which produces acids that eat into the tooth enamel, causing cavities. “Saliva can counteract the effect of the acid produced by bacteria as it contains minerals that help repair enamel; foods that do not contain sugar and need to be chewed are useful in stimulating the beneficial production of saliva,” Dakshina Vanzetti, president of Auromere, noted.
Retailers can help consumers by stocking a variety of products that address the needs of customers who are opting for a more natural oral care regimen. Also, speak from experience as to which products work best. It is always helpful to be knowledgeable about the ingredients and what may work for a consumer’s special condition, such as bleeding gums, bad breath and sensitive teeth. “Often, consumers will ask for assistance when comparing products and ingredients; for a consumer, that’s a lot to learn,” said Paula Van Gelder, director of communications, The Natural Dentist. “Oral care manufacturers should be able to prov