Xylitol, sweeteners, and dental caries

Pediatr Dent. 2006 Mar-Apr;28(2):154-63; discussion 192-8.


The purpose of this report was to provide an overview of xylitol and other polyol sweeteners and dental caries for clinicians and to discuss current applications for dental practice and potential community-based public health interventions. Xylitol, like other polyol sweeteners, is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol. Studies suggest polyols are noncariogenic. Furthermore, studies indicate that xylitol can decrease mutans streptococci levels in plaque and saliva and can reduce dental caries in young children, mothers, and in children via their mothers. Food products containing xylitol are now available and have the potential to be widely accessible to consumers to help control rampant decay. Determining whether products contain adequate xylitol amounts for practical use towards prevention is challenging, however, because xylitol content is not clearly labeled. Sufficient evidence exists to support the use of xylitol to reduce caries. Clinicians and dental associations should push for clear recommendations of efficacious dose and frequency of xylitol use and for clear labeling of xylitol content in products to help consumers choose appropriately.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cariostatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dental Caries / microbiology
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Streptococcus mutans / drug effects
  • Streptococcus sobrinus / drug effects
  • Sugar Alcohols / therapeutic use
  • Sweetening Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Xylitol / therapeutic use*


  • Cariostatic Agents
  • Sugar Alcohols
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Xylitol