Research: Clinical evidence unclear on effects of xylitol products preventing dental caries

The ADA News reports that dentists should consider the extent of scientific and clinical evidence before recommending  xylitol products for the purpose of reducing tooth decaythat based on research published in March on the Cochrane Library.

Researchers at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom concluded that while there is some evidence that using a fluoride toothpaste containing xylitol may reduce tooth decay in the permanent teeth of children by 13 percent over a 3 year period when compared to a fluoride-only toothpaste, the evidence is low quality.

Researchers came to the conclusion after examining information from 4,216 school children who took part in two Costa Rican studies. The researchers also found that for other xylitol-containing products, including syrup, lozenges and tablets, there was little or no evidence of any benefit in preventing tooth decay.

Xylitol has been used as a popular sugar substitute in sweets and is already known to cause less damage to teeth than sugar. It has been suggested that the addition of xylitol to products may help prevent tooth decay by stopping the growth of decay-producing bacteria.

But this review showed “there is insufficient high-quality evidence to prove that xylitol prevents tooth decay, ” said the study’s lead author, Philip Riley, M.P.H., of the School of Dentistry at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom in an email. “More well-conducted, randomized placebo-controlled trials that are large enough (in terms of number of randomized participants) to show a difference, if one exists, are needed.”

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  • The British Dental Health Foundation approves several chewing gums brands containing Xylitol, that gives me some piece of mind as I like to pop in some gum after eating or drinking.

  • One consideration is that xylitol is extremely dangerous to dogs. At minimum there should be full disclosure and labeling for both practitioners and unsuspecting clients. Preferably, this ingredient should be avoided.

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