Aim: To investigate the use of polyol-containing chewing gums in a day-care centre (kindergarten) setting as a means to affect the growth of mutans streptococci and dental plaque.
Design: Over a period of six months, 123 five-year-old children chewed xylitol (X group), sorbitol (G group), or did not chew gum (C group). Consumption of xylitol, and sorbitol was 4.5 to 5.0 g per day and subjects consumed in five supervised daily chewing episodes four at the day-care centres and one at home.
Methods: Interproximal dental plaque was sampled at baseline and after six months for a laboratory study of mutans streptococci counts. The Quigley & Hein plaque index procedure was used. Interviews and questionnaires elucidated the acceptability of the programme.
Results: Parents and kindergarten personnel regarded the programme as an important, additional procedure to promote better oral health. The children regarded the use of chewing gum as a pleasurable experience. Compared with groups G and C, there was a statistically significant reduction of mutans streptococci in the interproximal plaque in the X group. The Quigley & Hein plaque index scores tended to decrease in the X group, while no such trend was observed in the G group.
Conclusions: Habitual use of relatively small daily quantities of polyol-containing chewing gum by young children may be regarded as an important additional caries-preventive procedure in a combined day-care centre and home setting. Especially xylitol-containing chewing gum may significantly reduce the growth of mutans streptococci and dental plaque which may be associated with dental caries.