Does xylitol help to prevent cavities?

The cover story in the January, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association is a study with the title: Results from the Xylitol for Adult Caries Trial.

The authors of the study evaluated the effectiveness of xylitol lozenges in preventing caries in adults who were at risk for developing caries. They came to the conclusion that xylitol has no effect in reducing caries.  The 691 participants, aged 21 – 80 years, consumed five 1.0 gram xylitol or placebo lozenges a day for nearly three years.  The participants were examined at the start and at the end of each year of the study.  The authors concluded that daily use of xylitol lozenges did not result in a  significant reduction in caries among adults at an elevated risk of developing caries.

This study looked at adults.  An earlier study from August, 2009, called “Xylitol and Caries Prevention” looked at the effect of xylitol syrup fed to children and found that the syrup did result in reduction in decay.  It is curious to me that this new study involved xylitol lozenges rather than xylitol gum.  It has been suggested that the benefits of chewing xylitol gum come not from the xylitol but from the act of chewing because the increased salivary flow rinses away plaque and acid.  But chewing sugar-free gum is still better than chewing gum which has added sugar.  I would like to see a study comparing caries reduction with xylitol gum as opposed to sugared gum.

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