Xylitol and sorbitol effects on the microbiome of saliva and plaque

J Oral Microbiol. 2018 Oct 23;11(1):1536181. doi: 10.1080/20002297.2018.1536181. eCollection 2019.


Chewing gum containing xylitol may help prevent caries by reducing levels of mutans streptococci (MS) and lactobacilli in saliva and plaque. Very little is known about other species which are possibly beneficial to oral health. In this study, we employed high-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to profile microbial communities of saliva and plaque following short-term consumption of xylitol and sorbitol containing chewing gum. Participants (n = 30) underwent a washout period and were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Each group chewed either xylitol or sorbitol gum for three weeks, before undergoing a second four-week washout period after which they switched to the alternate gum for three weeks. Analysis of samples collected before and after each intervention identified distinct plaque and saliva microbial communities that altered dependent on the order in which gum treatments were given. Neither the xylitol nor sorbitol treatments significantly affected the bacterial composition of plaque. Lactobacilli were undetected and the number of Streptococcus mutans sequence reads was very low and unaffected by either xylitol or sorbitol. However, sorbitol affected several other streptococcal species in saliva including increasing the abundance of S. cristatus, an oral commensal shown to inhibit bacteria associated with chronic periodontitis.

Keywords: Caries; bacteria; microbial ecology; microbiome; plaque; saliva.

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the J Craig Venter Institute University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus [CRP.3.MAR14.7].