Influence of maternal xylitol consumption on acquisition of mutans streptococci by infants

J Dent Res. 2000 Mar;79(3):882-7. doi: 10.1177/00220345000790031601.


Xylitol is effective as a non-cariogenic sugar substitute. Habitual xylitol consumption appears to select for mutans streptococci (MS) with impaired adhesion properties, i.e., they shed easily to saliva from plaque. One hundred sixty-nine mother-child pairs participated in a two-year study exploring whether the mothers' xylitol consumption could be used to prevent mother-child transmission of mutans streptococci. All mothers showed high salivary levels of mutans streptococci during pregnancy. The mothers in the xylitol group (n = 106) were requested to chew xylitol-sweetened gum (65% w/w) at least 2 or 3 times a day, starting three months after delivery. In the two control groups, the mothers received either chlorhexidine (n = 30) or fluoride (n = 33) varnish treatments at 6, 12, and 18 months after delivery. The children did not chew gum or receive varnish treatments. MS were assessed from the mothers' saliva at half-year intervals and from the children's plaque at the one- and two-year examinations. The MS were cultured on Mitis salivarius agars containing bacitracin. The salivary MS levels of the mothers remained high and not significantly different among the three study groups throughout the study. At two years of age, 9.7% of the children in the xylitol, 28.6% in the chlorhexidine, and 48.5% in the fluoride varnish group showed a detectable level of MS. In conclusion, therefore, habitual xylitol consumption by mothers was associated with a statistically significant reduction of the probability of mother-child transmission of MS assessed at two years of age. The effect was superior to that obtained with either chlorhexidine or fluoride varnish treatments performed as single applications at six-month intervals.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use
  • Cariostatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chewing Gum
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chlorhexidine / therapeutic use
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • DMF Index
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Fluorides, Topical / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Streptococcus mutans / isolation & purification
  • Xylitol / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Cariostatic Agents
  • Chewing Gum
  • Fluorides, Topical
  • Chlorhexidine
  • Xylitol