Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in some foods, has been shown to prevent cavities from forming. Regular consumption of this polyol, which is similar to the sweeteners sorbitol and mannitol, forms a barrier on the teeth, which prevents biofilm from forming. Moreover, polyols cannot be broken down by bacteria in the mouth, thereby preventing the bacteria from creating the acid that causes tooth decay.
These claim concerning the benefits of xylitol come from a 2011 report commissioned by the American Dental Association. An expert panel recommended that people, especially those prone to cavities, use products containing xylitol or a combination of polyols to prevent tooth decay. The best time to do so is after meals.
As promising as these findings appear, it is important to remember that xylitol alone will not adequately protect your teeth from cavities. A complete dental regimen, including the use of fluoride products, is still recommended. However, for added protection, people should use products containing xylitol, such as gum, mints, or lozenges, several times per day.