Studies have shown that prevention of mutans streptococci (MS) colonization in early childhood can lead to prevention of dental decay. In the microbiological part of the present study in Ylivieska, Finland, with 195 mothers with high salivary MS levels, regular maternal use of xylitol chewing gum resulted in a statistically significant reduction in MS colonization in their children's teeth at the age of 2 years compared with teeth in children whose mothers received fluoride or chlorhexidine varnish treatment. The children did not chew gum or receive varnish treatments. For the present study, the children were examined annually for caries occurrence by experienced clinicians who did not know whether the children were colonized with MS. Regardless of the maternal prevention group, the presence of MS colonization in children at the age of 2 years was significantly related to each child's age at the first caries attack in the primary dentition. In children at the age of 5 years, the dentinal caries (dmf) in the xylitol group was reduced by about 70% as compared with that in the fluoride or chlorhexidine group. We conclude that maternal use of xylitol chewing gum can prevent dental caries in their children by prohibiting the transmission of MS from mother to child.