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Do Xylitol Supplements Help Fight Cavities?

Posted Mar 25 2013 10:42am

Xylitol is pretty interesting stuff – a sugar alcohol that seems to help prevent cavities and remineralize teeth. But new research suggests what we noted before : It’s no magic bullet.

xylitol Published earlier this year in JADA, the study involved several hundred adults, ages 21 through 80, who showed a higher than normal risk of developing caries (cavities). For nearly three years, members of one group took 5 daily xylitol lozenges, while the other took 5 placebo lozenges. Each was examined at the end of each of the first two years and again at the end of the study (33 months). While the xylitol group showed a 10% drop in caries by the end of the study, it was neither statistically nor clinically significant.

These results suggest that xylitol used as a supplement in adults does not reduce their caries experience significantly.

This comes on the heels of the chewing gum studies we wrote about earlier , which suggested that the xylitol may matter less than the increased saliva flow caused by the physical act of chewing.

Yes, when it comes to protecting your teeth, spit is pretty wondrous stuff. In the words of one researcher , “Saliva dilutes acid in the mouth, reduces the sugar burden…and possesses an intrinsic pH-buffering capacity.”

This was also noted by Dr. Kim Kutsch, commenting on the new JADA study for the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health. But he also homes in on another important point.

My conclusion from the actual study is that xylitol lozenges by themselves did not have an effect on high caries risk adult patients. Based on the study design, I would not have expected the xylitol mints by themselves to have made a significant outcome as the only strategy in these high caries risk adults. [emphasis added]

Indeed. For there are many causes of tooth decay. No single intervention of any kind is going to work for all, and a multifaceted approach to dealing with decay is usually called for. Xylitol might play a role.

Or it might not.


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