Chew gum to prevent cavities?
Is Xylitol Really the Ultimate in tooth Decay Prevention?
The effectiveness of Xylitol products (such as gum and candy), in preventing tooth decay, has now been commonly accepted by the public. Very often I get patients telling me "I should never again get a cavity because I chew Xylitol gum." But how effective is Xylitol at preventing decay?
It's important to understand that in the realm of science, belief does not always coincide with reality. An example: my mother used to tell me as a young child not to play in the cold, as the cold weather will cause me to get sick. We now know that it's the Rhinovirus that causes the common cold, not a drop in temperature. It's always important to re-examine our beliefs, no matter how deeply ingrained, and to cross check them against what the current research says.
So what is the conclusion regarding Xylitol? According to this recent scientific article (linked below), the following conclusions were made:
1) There is insufficient high-quality evidence to prove that xylitol prevents tooth decay,
2) The best evidence for preventing tooth decay is still brushing with fluoride toothpaste and eating less sugar,
3) There are side effects for Xylitol that are often not reported such as bloating, diarrhea and laxative effects.
The upshot is that brushing, flossing, and proper use of fluoride is still the gold standard for preventing decay. The study is not saying that Xylitol does not work, but merely stating that so far, the research and statistics are insufficient, and more investigation is warranted. So the next time your friend tells you that she quit brushing and flossing because she now chews Xylitol gum, you will now know what the proper response is!