July 24, 2008 -- Researchers have tested gummy bears made with a sugar substitute that wards off cavity-causing bacteria.
A study in Washington State gathered 154 first to fifth graders from two elementary schools. The students were given four gummy bears made with either xylitol or maltitol (types of sugars used in many types of sugarless chewing gum) three times a day during school hours.
All were checked for plaque and bacteria in their mouths at the start of the study and six weeks later.
After six weeks, there was a "significant" reduction in the main bacteria buildup associated with cavities for the children who snacked on the xylitol and maltitol candy.
Study lead author Kiet A. Ly with the University of Washington says in a news release that gummy bears may have the edge over gum.
"For xylitol to be successfully used in oral health promotion programs among primary school children, an effective means of delivering xylitol must be identified," Ly says. "Gummy bears would seem to be more ideal than chewing gum."
The gummy bears made with xylitol used in the study are not available on the U.S. market at this time. Study authors now urge a large clinical trial.
In background information published with the findings, study authors write that chewing gum made with these sugars are widely available in Europe, China, and Japan. Finland has a national campaign in place called "Smart Habits" for children, which uses xylitol products to reduce tooth decay.
The findings are published in the journal BMC Oral Health.