Why do we need to keep our teeth and gums in good shape? Good oral health reduces the chance of losing teeth and possibly the risk of fatal outcomes from COVID-19. It is now widely known that heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, make it a high risk when infected by Covid-19.
According to a recent study led by a McGill University researcher, infected and inflamed gums may result in higher rates of complications and more fatal outcomes for individuals diagnosed with the SARS-COV-2 virus.
The research suggests high mortality rates among people who died from the coronavirus infection are higher in those with gum disease than those with healthy gum. People who died from the coronavirus infection have periodontal disease. Researchers found that people with poor oral hygiene or periodontal disease may risk becoming more complicated when infected.
Periodontal disease has long been known to increase the risk of influenza infection. The same might be valid for the new coronavirus infection. Gingivitis and Periodontitis are two main types of gum diseases. Gingivitis is gum disease that typically starts with plaque building up on teeth. The number one cause of gum disease is plaque.
A sticky film that constantly forms on teeth
Dental plaque is bacteria in the oral cavity that sticks to the surface of the teeth. It looks like a white-yellow sticky food residue. Still, it is a large number of bacteria, about 100 billion per gram. As the number of plaques increases and matures, the types and numbers of bacteria gradually change. The periodontal pathogens have toxins that adversely affect periodontal tissues.
Our biological defense system against pathogens quickly mobilizes various immune cells and eliminates these harmful bacteria. However, periodontal tissue becomes the battlefield between bacteria and immune cells. This battle between the two is “inflammation.” And due to inflammation, the gums become swollen, red, and soft. So, gum inflammation is so-called Gingivitis.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis, such as gum swelling and bleeding, damages the soft tissue and gum. The destruction spreads from the gum to the bone when this inflammation continues. When the infection goes past the gum and into the bone, we call it a periodontal disease. Generally, when people say “gum” disease, it means Gingivitis or periodontal disease. In summary, if the problem stays only in the gum, it is Gingivitis. When the issue goes into the bone, it is Periodontitis.
Discover the multi-fold benefits of Xylitol for dental health!
Chewing gum that contains Xylitol is known to help prevent tooth decay. Unlike many other foods, Xylitol can be kept in the mouth for an extended period, providing a protective effect. Furthermore, chewing stimulates saliva production, rapidly neutralizing the acid bacteria in dental plaque and further enhancing its anti-decay properties.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in fruits like strawberries, plums and vegetables such as lettuce and cauliflower. It has the same level of sweetness as sugar and is commonly used as a sweetener. Xylitol is derived from sources such as birch trees and coconut shells for use in commercial products. It has fewer calories than sugar, with approximately 75% of the calories. When it dissolves, it produces heat, resulting in a refreshing sweetness.
It’s fascinating to note that Finland, the birthplace of Xylitol, boasts a high percentage of gum products containing this beneficial ingredient, with up to 90% of gum products featuring it. Despite its sweetness, Xylitol is known to have positive effects on teeth.
Reducing Mouth Acidity: A Vital Effect of Xylitol
The effects of Xylitol on the mouth are multi-fold and beneficial for dental health. When ingested, Xylitol can help reduce the amount of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, stimulate saliva production, and prevent the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay. One of the critical effects of Xylitol is its ability to reduce mouth acidity, which is vital for dental health as acidic conditions can erode tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay. Xylitol suppresses the growth and production of cavity-causing bacteria, which prevents acid production. Acid can dissolve teeth, and if the pH level in the mouth falls below 5.5, the teeth can become vulnerable to decay. The normal pH range in the mouth is between 6.5 to 7.0, and maintaining a balanced pH is crucial for oral health.
Stimulating Saliva Production: Another Advantage of Xylitol
Another beneficial effect of Xylitol is increased saliva production. Saliva has numerous benefits, such as diluting the presence of acid and protecting tooth enamel from the erosive effects of acid. It also helps re-mineralize the surface of teeth that may have been dissolved. Saliva contains essential elements such as calcium and phosphorus, crucial teeth components. As a result, the teeth attempt to reabsorb these elements, leading to their remineralization. Saliva also contains lysozyme that helps break down harmful bacteria’s cell walls, reducing their numbers in the mouth. Furthermore, saliva helps to balance the pH levels in the mouth, preventing it from becoming too acidic and creating a favorable environment for bacteria to grow.
Inhibiting Cavity-Causing Bacteria: How Xylitol Helps
In addition, Xylitol weakens cavity-causing bacteria such as mutans by consuming their energy and reducing their numbers. Mutans bacteria are known to play a significant role in developing dental cavities. They thrive in environments with a high sugar content, fermenting the sugars and producing acid that can dissolve tooth enamel and cause cavities. By consuming Xylitol, the growth of mutans bacteria is inhibited, reducing the risk of cavities.
Xylitol as Part of a Comprehensive Oral Hygiene Routin
It’s important to note that while consuming Xylitol-infused chewing gum or other Xylitol-rich foods can help prevent cavities, it is not guaranteed. Neglecting proper oral hygiene practices, such as regular brushing and flossing, is not recommended. Simply consuming Xylitol-rich foods or gum may not be enough to prevent cavities, especially if the mouth environment is highly acidic due to prolonged exposure to sugary foods. In some cases, remineralization of tooth surfaces may not be possible, especially for larger cavities visible on X-rays. In conclusion, Xylitol has several beneficial effects on the mouth, including reducing mouth acidity, stimulating saliva production, and inhibiting the growth of cavity-causing bacteria. However, using Xylitol as part of a comprehensive oral hygiene routine that includes regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits is essential for optimal dental health.
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[Internet]. Steffen Mickenautsch(BDS), Soraya Coelho Leal(Ph.D.), Veerasamy Yengopal(MChD), Ana Cristina Bezerra(Ph.D.), and Vanessa Cruvinel(MS): SUGAR-FREE CHEWING GUM AND DENTAL CARIES – A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW;  – [cited 2023 Apr 06]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[Internet]. Fabio Cocco, Giovanna Carta, Maria Grazia Cagetti, Laura Strohmenger, Peter Lingström, and Guglielmo Campuscorresponding author1,2: The caries preventive effect of 1-year use of low-dose Xylitol chewing gum. A randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial in high-caries-risk adults;  – [cited 2023 Apr 06]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[Internet]. Prathibha Anand Nayak, Kaisu Pienihäkkinen: Effects of Xylitol chewing gum and candies on the accumulation of dental plaque: a systematic review;  – [cited 2023 Apr 06]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/