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Sweets that are good for your teeth and other dental-health tips

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a New York City-based writer. She's contributed to magazines such as CosmoGIRL!, National Geographic Kids, Runner's World, Women's Health, Prevention and MetroSports New York. She is also the author of The Book of ...

Fight cavities with candy?

Good news for those with a sweet tooth: Snacking on certain Gummi Bears may ward off cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth, according to researchers at the University of Washington. But it's not just any gummies that are good for you. Gummi candy made with the sugar substitute xylitol (commonly used in sugarless gum) is said to combat tooth decay. Just how does this candy keep your teeth clean? Read on for more details on the study, plus other helpful dental tips.

Gummi Bears

GOOD FOR YOU GUMMIES

Recently published in the journal BMC Oral Health, this study reveals that children who ate Gummi Bears with xylitol three times a day over six hours had less plaque and bacteria in their mouths than the kiddos who didn't. And what, exactly, is xylitol? Sounds scary, but it's actually a naturally occurring sweetener found in fruit and veggies, including raspberries, strawberries, mushrooms, lettuce, endive and corn cobs. Xylitol rebalances the body's pH levels, staving off cavity-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites that tend to grow in an acidic environment. Products containing xylitol not only reduce cavities by up to 80 percent, they are also lower in calories than their counterparts containing sugar or other sweeteners.

UP YOUR XYLITOL INTAKE

So where can you get this magical cavity-fighting candy? While you can't currently buy Gummi Bears with xylitol (researchers had a California candy maker make up a special batch just for the study), it is anticipated that dental-friendly gummies will soon be hitting a candy counter near you. In the meantime, you can chew on other xylitol-based gums and mints from Altoids, Carefree, Trident or Orbit.

For maximum effectiveness, experts recommend consuming four to 12 grams of xylitol per day (one stick of suglarless contains a little over a gram of xylitol). Any more may produce a laxative effect, thanks to xylitol's high fiber content. Check out Emerald Forest and Epic Dental for an array of xylitol-based products, from gum to jams to chocolate.

OTHER HEALTHY TEETH TIPS

But don't expect candy or gum to prevent all of your dental dilemmas. To prevent cavities and keep your gums and mouth healthy, take care of your teeth by following these dental tips, as recommended by Crest:

1. Brusha Brusha Brusha. Brush twice a day for at least two minutes morning and night, giving attention to the gum line with small circular movements.

2. Floss. Floss before brushing to remove plaque and loosen debris from the tooth surface.

3. See your dentist. Get dental check-ups twice a year, especially if you are taking birth control pills or are pregnant or menopausal, as you have an increased susceptibility to problems such as gum disease, tooth decay and cavities.

4. Prenatal care. Visit your dentist before becoming pregnant. Expectant mothers can suffer from pregnancy gingivitis caused by hormonal changes and increased blood flow in the body. Plus, regular check-ups throughout a pregnancy can help diagnose and treat related dental hygiene conditions.

5. Got milk? Increase your calcium intake with a daily supplement and by eating fruits and vegetables high in calcium, such as dark leafy greens. Calcium-fortified foods lower the acid buildup in saliva that can lead to the breakdown of tooth enamel.

6. Sleep counts. Believe or not, adequate shut-eye can improve your dental health. Sleep at least eight hours nightly to prevent your immune system from becoming run-down and depleted and leaving you susceptible to infection from oral bacteria in your mouth.

7. Take a multi. Take a daily dose of vitamins C and D for better absorption of healthy mouth minerals like calcium and phosphorous, which support the bone and gum tissue, keeping it healthy. And if taking supplements in pill form is not your thing, mix a vitamin C-packed packet of Emergen-C in your morning juice. Try Emergen-C's newest flavors: acai (super high in antioxidants) or pink lemonade (50 percent of the profits go towards increasing breast cancer awareness).

Read more about taking care of your teeth by clicking on the following:

The truth about natural toothpaste

Dietary habits important for dental health

Stress and dental health

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