Integrative Dentistry: Ecology of the Mouth

VL-Nov13-1by Chris Edwards, DDS

Published November 2013

The oral cavity (mouth) is an ecosystem. It consists of teeth, bone, gum, soft tissue, saliva, and literally hundreds of bacteria, some good and some bad. 5is is the start of our digestive system, and through it passes the food and drink that nourish our bodies. Mutans Streptococcus (MS), often called Strep Mutans, and many other bacteria commonly live in the mouth confined within communities termed biofilms or plaque and are responsible for causing tooth decay and gum (periodontal) disease.

When MS bacteria ingest the food we eat, particularly refined sugars and carbohydrates, they secrete acid. As the pH of the mouth decreases (becomes more acidic), the enamel of the tooth decalcifies. Eventually, the bacteria can get through the enamel and start infecting the softer inner portion of the tooth. 5is is dental caries. The enamel cavitates (crumbles) and becomes a cavity.

As well as causing trouble in the mouth, studies show that MS bacteria and other bacteria are pretty good at getting out of the mouth and gut and into the blood stream. Researchers have found that when there is a large amount of MS bacteria found in the mouth, there was a corresponding abundance of the same bacteria in arterial plaque. 5ere exists a positive correlation between the amount of arterial plaque and inflammation.

Besides brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings and check-ups, what is a person to do to alleviate this problem? Xylitol is a smart and natural choice.
Xylitol is a sugar alternative and is unique in its 5-carbon structure. The bacteria ravenously consume the Xylitol. They cannot replicate, and it renders them unable to secrete the sticky plaque or the harmful acid. As the population decreases, more beneficial bacteria take over which changes the ecology of the mouth. The pH increases (becomes more alkaline), and the process
of remineralization occurs that strengthens the enamel, and it becomes more resistant to the oral bacteria.
Xylitol products include the bioavailable minerals of calcium and phosphorus to add to these minerals already in your saliva. Thanks to Xylitol, we now have a way to reverse early decay and prevent future decay. Xylitol is a natural substance and comes from the plant cell wall. It is found in many fruits and is a natural part of our normal glucose metabolism.
Xylitol is well tolerated and accepted for at-home use and in preschool groups. It can be used as soon as the teeth erupt into the mouth. Many kinds of Xylitol have no 6uoride, which is a problem
with young children swallowing and ingesting it, and for those avoiding fluoride. Another benefit of Xylitol is the reduction of ear infections and even upper respiratory infections. 5e theory is that the oral use of Xylitol is also reducing the Strep Pneumococcus bacteria that are responsible. This results in less need for antibiotics.


The basic recommendation to incorporate Xylitol into your life is to use an effective amount of Xylitol multiple times each day. Six grams a day is the recommended dosage. 5is is only obtained in products that have high concentrations of pure Xylitol. These include toothpastes, gum, mints, granular, candies, and mouthwashes. A healthy habit of at least five ‘pulses’ each day can be established by using Xylitol toothpaste and mouthwash morning and night, mints between meals, and chewing gum after meals and snacks. Xylitol is beneficial and safe for humans, but is dangerous to dogs. It causes hypoglycemia and can lead to liver failure.

All Xylitol products are not created equal. For more information, contact Smile Design & Wellness Center 751-7775 or