A longitudinal study was carried out in order to evaluate the caries incidence as affected by partial substitution of dietary sucrose (S) with xylitol (X), the effects of S- or X-containing chewing gums being compared during one year. The material comprised initially 102 young adults, predominantly dental and medical students, divided randomly into S- and X-groups. During the study 2 subjects were excluded, one due to lack of cooperation, the other not being allowed to enter the assigned S-group due to excessive caries prevalence. The subjects consumed 4.0 chewing gums per day in the S-group and 4.5 in the X-group. The frequency of sucrose intake was 4.2 times per day in the S-group, and 4.9 in the X-group. The caries incidence, assessed independently by clinical and radiographical means, expressed as the mean increment of decayed, missed and filled tooth surfaces, was 2.92 in the S-group, and --1.04 in the X-group. The corresponding values, when considering additionally the secondary caries reverals, were 3.76 in the S-group, and 0.33 in the X-group. The caries incidence was also expressed in combined quantitative and qualitative terms by considering in addition to the above parameters, also the changes in lesion size. The caries activity index thus calculated was 4.96 in the S-group, and 0.88 in the X-group. The results show a profound difference in the caries increment rate between the two experimental groups. The findings clearly indicate a therapeutic, caries inhibitory effect of xylitol.