Xylitol is used in products such as sugar-free gum, breath mints, cough syrup, candy, desserts, mouthwashes, children's chewable vitamins and even toothpaste. Xylitol works to sweeten commercial products and is created by extracting "from corn fiber, birch trees, hardwood trees and other vegetable material," notes VCA Hospitals, before being made into a powder to use as a sugar substitute.
Xylitol has also been used as a medication for children with middle ear infections or for people with diabetes who want to eat sugar but cannot. Xylitol is also found naturally in plants, fruits and vegetables, according to WebMD. Xylitol is particularly influential as a sugar substitute because of its effect on oral health. The sugar substitute has been shown to ward off bacterial growth and to prevent cavities from forming.
Xylitol is considered safe for people, though it can cause diarrhea when people first begin eating it. When this happens, try taking a break from the substance and then re-introducing it slowly. It is important to keep in mind, however, that xylitol is harmful to dogs and can cause hypoglycemia or seizures as well as death, reports the VCA Hospitals. Even small amounts of xylitol is harmful and it is necessary to keep dogs away from anything that contains the substance.