BOSTON (CBS) – Dentists are often telling their patients to avoid too much candy and sweets to prevent tooth decay, but that could soon change.

There’s one type of candy they may now be recommending for optimal tooth health.

Most candy has tons of sugar in it. But more and more candies are being sweetened with xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that comes from fruit trees, and doesn’t pack the calories.

Dr. Peter Arsenault is the head of Operative Dentistry at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. He says xylitol, now found in chewing gum, gummy candies, caramels, and toothpaste, not only won’t rot your teeth, but may actually protect them.

“If we have 5-8 grams a day what the American Dental Association recommends it’s very good for us,” Dr. Arsenault said.

Registered Dietician and Boston University Nutrition Professor Joan Salge Blake agrees.

“This would be a lower calorie gum or lower calorie candy so clearly a good choice,” Salge Blake said.

Jake and Ross Erman, ages 14 and 12 from Sudbury, love candy. So we asked them to try a few xylitol sweetened varieties. They both agreed the lollipops and hard candies were good and tasted like regular candy. The gummy candies, however, were a little dense.

Too much xylitol can cause stomach upset, but in small quantities, it’s fine.

Dr. Arsenault says if your child wants a sweet snack, offer them some xylitol candy and encourage them to chew gum.

“I almost predict that in schools they’re going to allow us to chew gum again – with xylitol,” said Arsenault.

Jake concluded about his xylitol lollipop, “There’s not much of a difference and if it’s better for you, I’d choose this one any day.”

Beware, however, that xylitol can be toxic to dogs so please keep these products away from household pets.



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