Woman talking(l+r), Blue gloved hands with dental tools near smiling mouth(c)

4 PM production/Shutterstock @healthyshyla/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘Snacking can be really bad for your teeth’: Expert says this product can help prevent cavities if you snack often

‘You need three things for a cavity to happen: a food source, or some sugar; bacteria; and time.’


Phil West


A dietitian is making a recommendation for people who snack often to maintain dental health and prevent cavities—something that snacking makes people more susceptible to.

The secret is xylitol gum, according to Shyla (@healthyshyla), whose TikTok bio dubs her as “a dietitian with things to say.” She starts with a stitch of someone who tried to issue a PSA about snacking causing cavities for her “snacker girlies” and then jumps in with the xylitol gum recommendation. It’s been very popular advice, getting more than 1.7 million views since going up on Wednesday.

“I’m a dietitian; I’m not a dentist,” she begins, “but I’m a dietitian who knows the importance of oral health, and the oral microbiome, as well as the connection to your actual overall health and nutrition, and how foods affect your teeth.”

She goes on to note how people tend to snack on foods high in carbohydrates. As a result, “sugar feeds bacteria in your mouth that essentially consumes the sugar and then poops out acid, and that acid just eats away at your enamel.”

How does xylitol help?

She then explains, “Xylitol is indeed a sugar alcohol. It is a natural sugar alcohol that essentially just helps regulate the acidity in your mouth,” adding that it “essentially tricks the bacteria into thinking it’s sugar, but then [the bacteria] eats it and then it realizes that it can’t actually use it for energy and then they die off.”

That’s corroborated by Casey Rhines, DDS, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, who was interviewed on the topic by MedicalXpress.

Rhines explains, “Sugar is broken down into acid by the bacteria that are naturally present in our mouths. You need three things for a cavity to happen: a food source, or some sugar; bacteria; and time. If you interrupt any of those three things, you can’t get a cavity—or you lessen your chances severely. So, if you brush your teeth right after eating, you’re inhibiting time. If you don’t have the natural bacteria in your mouth, then you inhibit the bacterial aspect. If you don’t eat sugar, then you inhibit that.”

Rhines goes on to drop an incredible stat: “There have been studies that show xylitol decreases acid-producing bacteria in your mouth by up to 90%.” However, there’s also a warning that it can be extremely toxic to pets, so it’s a good idea to store it away safely to avoid catastrophe.

@healthyshyla Get to chewin also @Siena Filippi i hope you got second opinion!!☺️ #xylitolgum #xylitol #dietitiansoftiktok ♬ original sound – Shyla, RD, LDN

Commenters expressed a range of thoughts.

One bemoaned the gum-chewing process, noting, “Me watching this as a snacker who has TMJ and can’t chew gum.” That comment led someone to recommend Xylitol lollipops.

Another offered, “Also drinking/swishing around water in between drinking sugary drinks/coffee helps.”

Yet another advised, “My dentist told me years ago that it was best to brush your teeth after eating, but if you couldn’t do that sugar free gum with xylitol was the next best thing.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to Shyla via email.

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