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Xylitol: Opinion Shifts Again?

Posted Apr 26 2013 10:43am

What were we saying about health news sometimes being a little crazy-making?

About a month ago, a new xylitol study found that lozenges made with the stuff might not actually be all that great at reducing tooth decay. This month:


But this paper, published in the Journal of Dental Research, is a true follow-up: a reanalysis of data from the earlier study. That one looked at overall effect. The new study examined xylitol’s effect on different tooth surfaces.

“When the xylitol versus placebo caries-preventive effects were analyzed by lumping all tooth surfaces together, the overall effect was nonsignificant: 11% less caries in the xylitol group versus placebo,” [lead author] Dr. [André] Ritter said. “But when we analyzed the xylitol versus placebo caries-preventive effects by separating the tooth surfaces, the positive effects of xylitol on root surfaces were clear: 40% less root caries in the xylitol group versus placebo.”

root_caries Sounds impressive. Yet as Dr. Ritter noted, “While our analysis shows that the caries preventive effect of xylitol…was statistically significant, the magnitude of the risk-reduction effect was clinically modest.” It may be helpful for some, but xylitol “is not the silver bullet,” he added.

Truly, no single intervention is apt to be a panacea. Many factors play a role in tooth decay.

Real prevention is multifaceted.

Image via Dr. Spiller

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