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What is Xylitol Gum?

By Sarah Valek
Updated May 17, 2024
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Chewing gum can be sweetened artificially, using aspartame or sorbitol, or using a natural sweetener, like sugar or xylitol. Xylitol gum is made with xylitol, a “tooth friendly” sugar alcohol naturally found in tree wood. Xylitol looks and tastes like sugar except, unlike regular cane sugar or other sweeteners, xylitol poses many dental hygiene benefits.

Xylitol has anticariogenic properties. Specifically, xylitol inhibits Streptococcus mutans bacteria, the bacteria mainly responsible for causing dental cavities. Compare this to other sweeteners, which commonly promote bacterial growth. This wood sugar also reduces plaque by attracting and inhibiting harmful microorganisms from growing, giving teeth time to remineralize enamel lesions.

The benefits go beyond teeth. A 1996 study in the “British Medical Journal” conducted a study to see if xylitol gum had any effect on children who experienced repeated ear infections. Half of the children chewed xylitol gum and the other half chewed regular chewing gum at the same frequency. The children chewing xylitol gum experienced a significantly reduced rate of ear infections. Xylitol gum is also popular for diabetics because the sweetener is slowly absorbed by the body and has only a minimal effect on blood glucose levels.

Xylitol was first discovered in 1891 by a German chemist and has been used in U.S. foods since the 1960s. There are no known serious risks to humans associated with xylitol. Wood sugar is a mild laxative, though, and some people can experience bouts of diarrhea. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider xylitol safe for everyone to consume, from infants to pregnant women and the elderly. However, xylitol-containing products can be deadly to dogs.

The best way to get xylitol in your diet is by regularly chewing gum. Xylitol gum can be purchased in mainstream grocery stores, health food stores or online through the manufacturer. There are many flavors and brands to choose from.

This sweetener isn’t used often in baking goods because it can interact negatively with yeast. Xylitol gum typically contains about 1 gram of xylitol per piece. The only way to experience health benefits associated with xylitol is to consume 4 to 12 grams of this substance per day. Xylitol gum containing 1 gram of the sweetener must be chewed at least four times a day for any effects to be seen. Otherwise, the gum will prove ineffective, even if taken in higher doses but only once or twice a day.

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Discussion Comments

By lonelygod — On Jan 07, 2012

@animegal - If you get bulk xylitol gum you might find that it is just as cheap over here as it is in Asia. I find that purchasing it online also goes a long way towards making the price for it more reasonable.

As far as health benefits go there is a lot of talk surrounding xylitol sweetened gum and it seems that people believe it can do anything from preventing ear infections to improving bone density. For myself I go with what I know it does from experience and that is prevent bad breath. Xylitol gum does an amazing job of keeping my breath smelling fresh even if I am sick. For that reason alone I make sure to buy it.

By animegal — On Jan 06, 2012

Whenever I visit Asia it seems like my friends in South Korea are always offering me xylitol gum brands. From what I have been told there are some health benefits that xylitol offers. Does anyone know if xylitol rich gum actually does anything for you or is it just another marketing gimmick?

I have always thought that gum was pretty much the same across the board but if there is one that is healthier I would certainly give it a chance on a more regular basis. Right now I only buy xylitol gum when I am abroad as it is much more expensive at home. I need a really good reason to spend the extra cash on it here.

By allenJo — On Jan 06, 2012

@MrMoody - I agree. That’s probably the main reason people will chew it. I can’t imagine doling out a bunch of gum sticks to my kid to help him battle ear infections!

While some of these herbal or natural remedies may work, the fact is medicine is quicker in my opinion, and of course it’s been laboratory tested.

Most of these statements about the health benefits of gum containing Xylitol are for clinical or even anecdotal purposes in my opinion.

By MrMoody — On Jan 05, 2012

@everetra - Chewing gum with xylitol can still be useful in moderation, however. If nothing else, it’s considered “tooth friendly.”

That way you won’t end up getting cavities, but you can still experience the sweetness of the gum. I don’t know many people who buy bubble gum for additional health benefits. They are typically just looking for an alternative to sugar.

By everetra — On Jan 04, 2012

I’ve heard a lot about the xylitol gum and have even bought it myself, for its purported health benefits.

While I do believe that it has health benefits, I didn’t realize that you would need to chew four to twelve pieces of the gum to experience any of those benefits!

It’s funny that they don’t tell you that on the package of the gum. Just putting the right ingredient into a product isn’t enough to make you healthy.

It’s like coffee. I had heard some of the health benefits of coffee, but in digging deeper into the literature, some studies said you needed four cups or more a day to really get those benefits. I am not an avid coffee drinker so that is three cups too many for me.

In the same way, I am probably not going to be chewing xylitol bubble gum all day either.

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