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News - Xylitol helps keep teeth mineralised and cavity-free

By Holly Taylor BSc (Hons) DipCNM MBANT

In the 1970s, it was found that replacing all the sucrose in chewing gum with xylitol (a derivative of the plant sugar xylose) helped to keep teeth free of dental cavities and encouraged healthy levels of minerals in existing caries. Yet, despite evidence of xylitol’s effects on teeth, the commercial use of xylitol by the food industry is still insignificant. Now, a recent study confirms the tooth-friendly properties of replacing sugar with xylitol in other foods, too.

During the trial, one 176 physically disabled school students, ranging in age from 10 to 27 years, had dental examinations and were divided into two groups. 126 of the students were given a xylitol sweet to suck three times each day at school, while the 50 remaining students acted as a control group. After 18 months, a second dental examination was performed on each of the participants to assess the number of healthy, decayed, missing and filled teeth. 

In the xylitol group, 212 of the teeth that had originally been scored as decayed were reclassified as sound by the 18 month check up. In the control group only one decayed tooth had improved. In contrast, there were 192 new caries reported at 18 months in the control group, compared to just 41 in the larger xylitol group.

In the conclusion of their study, the scientists commented that: “Compared to not using xylitol, the use of xylitol candy produced both re-mineralisation and protection against coronal caries”. This study adds to a growing body of literature that supports the use of xylitol as a positively tooth-friendly sugar substitute. 

Article References

J Bader. Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice, 2007, 7:120-122

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