Xylitol: How Sweet It Is ...

Harvath, M., J. Munoz, J. Orel, and M. Vecore

Purpose

Xylitol is a sugar substitute with sweetness equal to that of table sugar and belongs to a group of compounds called sugar alcohols. Data from recent studies have shown that xylitol can reduce the occurrence of dental caries in children, mothers and in children via their mothers. The purpose of this table clinic is to educate and bring awareness to the benefits of xylitol on preventing tooth decay and give recommendations for the use in clinical practice.

Summary

Early transmission of mutans streptococci (MS) from parents to their children is thought to play an important part in early childhood caries. Clinical trials to suppress the maternal MS levels as a means to reduce MS levels in their children have been done. Xylitol is not metabolized by MS and is inhibitory to them. Chewing xylitol gum or foods containing xylitol can stop the return of oral MS after chemotherapeutic suppression of this cariogenic organism.

In children at high risk for dental caries, xylitol-containing products have the potential to control the problem of rampant decay in the primary dentition. A study conducted among school-aged children in Belize with high rates of dental caries showed that the consumption of xylitol gum was associated with arrest of carious lesions and that the highest dose has the greatest effect.

Recommendations for the frequency and amount needed of xylitol-containing products in the diet to receive optimal therapeutic benefits are also discussed.

Conclusion

Using xylitol-containing products, such as gum, has been shown to be an effective means of decreasing caries risk in young children and in suppressing MS levels in maternal transmission. Literature review presented will discuss the effectiveness and importance of xylitol for the prevention and control of dental caries.