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Xylitol Shown To Prevent Cavities In Children

Xylitol and child cavities

There is some good news in the battle to prevent cavities in children. Peter Milgrom, DDS, and colleagues have published research in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine which shows the use of xylitol helps prevent tooth decay by acting as an antibacterial agent.

Xylitol is a natural occurring low-calorie sweetener which has been approved for use in foods in the United States since 1963. Earlier research using the sweetener in chewing gum and lozenges had shown fewer tooth decay in permanent teeth. The researchers used the xylitol in an oral syrup form in babies aged 9 – 15 months. There were 94 participants in the study.

The participants were divided into two treatment groups and one control group. Group one (33 children) received 4 gms of xylitol syrup twice a day for a total of 8 grams daily. Group two (32 children) received 2.67 gms of the xylitol syrup three times a day for a total of 8 grams. The control group (29 children) received one daily dose of the 2.67 gms xylitol syrup. Placebos weren’t used in the control group at the insistence of health officials in the Marshall Islands were the study was done.

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The researches found only 24.2% of children receiving 8 grams of xylitol each day regardless of whether in two or three doses. The control group had 51.7% got tooth decay.

Peter Milgrom, DDS, and colleagues write, “Our results suggest that exposure to xylitol (eight grams per day) in a twice-daily topical oral syrup during primary tooth eruption could prevent up to 70% of decayed teeth."

Tooth decay is a disease that is mostly preventable with good oral hygiene and nutrition. It is especially high in poor children, almost twice as high as their better off peers. Xylitol could become a cost-effective, preventive step in preventing early childhood cavities.

Milgrom, P. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, July 2009; vol 163: pp 601-607.
Edelstein, B. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, July 2009; vol 163: pp 667-668.