Xylitol sweetener – What is it?
Xylitol is a natural alcohol found in almost all plants, but in very low doses. Commercially it is made by concentrating these small amounts found in birchwood. It is used in candy, gum, toothpaste, and mouth-rinses. The primary reason is that it appears to aid in decay prevention (although that is debatable). Whether it does actively prevent or is just neutral is somewhat irrelevant, because it is sweet enough to take the place of regular decay causing sugar.
How does xylitol work?
Xylitol sweetener works because the bacteria that causes dental decay can not feed on xylitol. In fact, xylitol helps neutralize the acids that decay bacteria produce when eating sugar. Most products have very minimal amounts of xylitol and are considered non-therapeutic. In other words, they are not in high enough doses to actively prevent decay. When using xylitol gum or mints as a decay prevention product, one must have about five doses a day. That means have 5 mints or chew 5 pieces of gum throughout the day.
Warnings with xylitol
If you overuse xylitol it can cause diarrhea and intestinal gas. That is usually only seen in those using it as a sugar substitute when cooking. Those are pretty massive amounts of xylitol compared to mints and gum. Dogs and ferrets are extremely sensitive to xylitol. Even small amounts will cause serious side-effects that can happen immediately or be delayed. Basically, you should not have around if you have dogs or ferrets.