Xylitol Helps Prevent Kids' Cavities

Xylitol use by parents helps their children to avoid cavities, pain, and inconvenience

The good news for new parents is they can easily help prevent cavities in their children simply by regularly chewing gum with xylitol.

"Dentists in Finland recommend regular xylitol usage for the parents of little children when the first primary teeth of their baby are erupting," Dr. Laitala said. "Xylitol use by parents helps their children to avoid cavities, pain, and inconvenience, and thus raises the quality of life."

Add another virtue to the list of xylitol's benefits: Mothers who use it will reduce the risk of their children developing cavities over the long term. Finnish researchers reported the striking findings after circling back with the participants of a maternal cavities prevention study they had completed 10 years ago.

"We wanted to study if the avoiding of early mutans streptococci colonization had long-term effects," lead researcher Marja-Liisa Laitala, DDS, PhD, told "The most important result was that the first carious experience was delayed by over three years."

The occurrence of cavities in high-cavities-risk children in the study actually dropped to the rate of the reference group, the researchers found.

In the new study, Dr. Laitala's team followed up with the children from the previous study until they were 10 years of age using records from the Ylivieska Public Health Center. Of the 195 participating children, 148 were still available. Mothers with a low level of mutans streptococci served as a reference group.

 Decay was measured with the decayed, missing, and filled teeth (DMFT) index, and caries-free time was estimated with the Cox regression model. The caries-free period in primary teeth was longest for xylitol: 8.17 years in the xylitol group, 5 years with fluoride, 6.5 years with chlorhexidine, and 8.14 in the reference group.