Sixty 11- to 15-year-old children wearing fixed orthodontic appliances were given chewing gums containing polyol for daily use after meals and snacks, to study whether the chewing of gums that contained slowly fermentable polyols (xylitol and sorbitol) affects the amount of dental plaque and the number of mutans streptococci present in plaque and saliva. The 60 subjects were randomly divided into four groups, each of which was provided with a supply of 1.35 gm pellet-shaped gums for a period of 1 month, as follows: (1) xylitol; (2) sorbitol; (3) xylitol-sorbitol mixture I (3:2); and (4) xylitol-sorbitol mixture II (4:1). In each group, two pellets with a total initial gum mass of 2.7 gm (maximum polyol dose per day: 10.5 gm), were used six times a day. The fresh and dry weight of dental plaque, collected at baseline and 28 days later from incisors, canines, and premolars from the area between gingival margin and the bracket, reduced in all groups, but most significantly (by 43% to 47%) in children receiving xylitol gum. The plaque and saliva levels of mutans streptococci did not change in the sorbitol group, but was significantly (in most cases) reduced by 13% to 33% in groups that received gum containing xylitol. Provided that the quantity of dental plaque and the plaque and salivary levels of mutans streptococci can be regarded as risk factors in dental caries, these results suggest that regular use of polyol gum--and especially gum that contains xylitol as the predominant sweetener--can reduce the caries risk in young patients wearing fixed orthodontic appliances.