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Sweetener May Cut Cavities in Kids

Study Shows a Sugar Substitute Prevents Tooth Decay in Toddlers
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 9, 2008 -- Daily doses of a sweetened syrup could keep very young kids from developing cavities.

Dental researchers at the University of Washington have found that toddlers who are given two or three daily spoonfuls of the sugar substitute xylitol in a fruit-flavored syrup have significantly lower rates of tooth decay than other children.

Researchers presented their results today at the 86th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research in Toronto.

The study involved 102 children with an average age of 15 months who lived in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Childhood tooth decay is a serious health concern in that central Pacific region. Study authors say the average 5-year-old living there has two to three times as many cavities as a young child living in a typical mainland community.

The children randomly received different doses of the sweetened syrup once, twice, or three times a day for 12 months. At the end of the trial, nearly 76% of the toddlers who received twice-daily doses of xylitol syrup (8 grams in total) were cavity-free, compared to 48% of those who received a single spoonful a day.

More than half (59.4%) of the children who received xylitol three times a day were cavity-free after a year.

"The largest difference in decayed teeth was seen in the twice-daily dosing group," the researchers write in their meeting abstract.

It's a finding that's sure to have some parents scratching their heads, wondering how something sweet -- what we often blame for cavities --- could be good for the teeth.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that's found in plants and fruits. It is a sugar alcohol. According to the FDA, sugar alcohols do not promote tooth decay. Studies suggest that xylitol blocks the growth of the bacteria that cause cavities.

The FDA considers xylitol "generally safe" and has approved its use as a food additive for many decades. Today the sweetener can be found in sugar-free gum, mints, and toothpaste.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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