Topical xylitol administration by parents for the promotion of oral health in infants: a caries prevention experiment at a Finnish Public Health Centre

Int Dent J. 2013 Aug;63(4):210-24. doi: 10.1111/idj.12038. Epub 2013 Apr 15.


Objectives: This demonstration programme tested topical use of xylitol as a possible oral health promoting regimen in infants at a Finnish Public Health Centre in 2002-2011.

Methods: Parents (usually mothers) began once- or twice-daily administration of a 45% solution of xylitol (2.96 m) onto all available deciduous teeth of their children at the age of approximately 6-8 months. The treatment (xylitol swabbing), which continued till the age of approximately 36 months (total duration 26-28 months), was carried out using cotton swabs or a children's toothbrush; the approximate daily xylitol usage was 13.5 mg per each deciduous tooth.

Results: At the age of 7 years, caries data on the deciduous dentition of 80 children were compared with those obtained from similar, untreated children (n = 90). Xylitol swabbing resulted in a significant (P < 0.001) reduction in the incidence of enamel and dentine caries compared with the comparison subjects (relative risk 2.1 and 4.0, respectively; 95% confidence intervals 1.42-3.09 and 2.01-7.98, respectively). Similar findings were obtained when the children were 5 or 6 years old. The treatment reduced the need of tooth filling relative risk and 95% confidence intervals at 7 years: 11.86 and 6.36-22.10, respectively; P < 0.001). Compared with untreated subjects, the oral counts of mutans streptococci were reduced significantly (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Considerable improvement in dental health was accomplished in infants participating in a topical at-home xylitol administration experiment, which was offered to families in the area by the Public Health Centre as a supplement to standard oral health care. Caregiver assessment of the programme was mostly rated as high or satisfactory.

Keywords: Xylitol; caries prevention; infants' caries; public health centres.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Confidence Intervals
  • DMF Index
  • Dental Caries / microbiology
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Dental Health Services*
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lost to Follow-Up
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Streptococcus mutans
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tooth, Deciduous
  • Xylitol / administration & dosage*


  • Xylitol