Background: The author compared the caries-inhibitory action of sorbitol- and xylitol-sweetened chewing gum and assessed the role of these products in caries prevention.
Types of studies reviewed: The author reviewed studies including randomized field trials with substantial numbers of participants and observational studies. He did not review case studies. He found studies through a MEDLINE search and by hand searching.
Results: When compared with sugar-sweetened gum, sorbitol-sweetened gum had low cariogenicity [corrected] when it was chewed no more than three times per day. Xylitol-sweetened gum was noncariogenic in all of the protocols tested. Some studies claimed that xylitol-sweetened gum had an anticariogenic effect, though these claims need further study. There also is good evidence that when mothers of infants and young children chew xylitol-sweetened gum, it will block transmission of mutans streptococci from mother to child.
Clinical implications: The evidence is strong enough to support the regular use of xylitol-sweetened gum as a way to prevent caries, and it can be promoted as a public-health preventive measure. Chewing xylitol-sweetened gum, especially for patients who like chewing gum, can be fitted readily into a regimen that includes frequent fluoride exposure, good oral hygiene and regular dental appointments.