Xylitol in Pregnancy
It’s perfectly normal for newly expectant moms to begin questioning everything they put into their bodies. Most women worry to some greater or lesser degree about whether the things they eat or the cosmetics they use will have some effect on their growing baby. It’s normal, and it’s fed by a whole flock of well-meaning advice sites, books, and family members (or perfect strangers) weighing in on each choice as to whether it is healthy or dangerous.
It’s no surprise, given that it’s something you put into your body, that the question of xylitol gum’s safety would arise, along with questions of the safety of sushi and lists of which cheeses are okay to eat and which are likely to be tainted with levels of bacteria unsafe for a growing baby. There’s great news here! Xylitol-based sugar-free gum is generally considered safe for pregnant women, and it may provide some considerable advantages for the mom-to-be.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweet substance; it’s about 5% less sweet than regular table sugar. It can be found in birch trees and some fruits and vegetables. It’s officially classified as a sugar alcohol, which can be misleading since it is not alcohol and it’s not properly a sugar. Rather, sugar alcohols are a group of foods that the body absorbs slowly and incompletely without causing a spike in blood sugar levels. It’s considered a non-nutritive sweetener, so it’s often used in foods for diabetics or other people who need to carefully control their sugar intake. The body does not process it like regular sugar, and the specific ways xylitol differs from sugar in the body are what make it really useful in oral care products (more on that in a minute).
Is Xylitol Safe During Pregnancy?
It’s reasonable to look for expert opinions about the safety of any chemical put into the body. The US Food and Drug Administration and Canada’s Food and Drug regulations have both found xylitol safe for general consumption and for pregnant women after due consideration. Xylitol occurs naturally in foods, which may be comforting to people looking for a non-chemically manufactured sweetener. Some people experience digestive upset after eating too much xylitol, though this is generally not a concern for oral care products containing xylitol.
So Why Xylitol Gum? What’s all the Fuss?
The real advantage to xylitol gum is it’s potential to fight cavities. Just like our bodies don’t process xylitol like regular sugar, the bacteria that cause cavities cannot use xylitol for food. But, they still attempt to use xylitol the way they would use sugar when xylitol is available. The bacteria appear to take in (eat) the xylitol, then starve themselves to death, full of food they cannot process for energy. Xylitol, unlike sugar, isn’t processed into acids by the oral bacteria, lowering the risk of acids in the mouth dissolving necessary minerals out of tooth enamel.
In additional to bacteria-control properties, studies in animals have shown that xylitol helps increase bone and mineral volume. Because xylitol has been seen in human studies to decrease caries lesion size, there is reason to believe that xylitol may help calcium retention in people’s bones and teeth. There is evidence that xylitol helps remineralize middle and deeper levels of enamel, indicating another way xylitol chewing gum may help build up tooth structure. Because pregnant women with untreated gum disease have a higher risk of premature delivery and because no one wants to get a filling, much less while pregnant, this cavity-fighting property of xylitol is especially attractive.
At least one study has shown that regularly chewing a gum with xylitol in pregnancy helped women with a high amount of cavity-causing bacteria avoid passing that bacteria on to their children when the children were checked between 9-24 months of age. It’s possible that chewing gum with xylitol may not just help mom’s oral health, but may help protect her new baby’s oral health as well.
For pregnant gum chewers, not only is there a broad consensus that xylitol is a safe and appropriate choice, there seem to be some benefits available for those who choose or switch to a sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol. Consider CariFree CTx2 Xylitol Gum for a gum made with your oral health in mind.