Skip to content
News / July 7, 2009

Sugar substitute may prevent toddlers

by Guy Hiscott

Toddlers given syrup containing the naturally occurring sweetener xylitol may be less likely to develop decay in their baby teeth, a new study suggests.

Xylitol has been shown to effectively prevent tooth decay by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that cause cavities.

These previous studies have primarily involved chewing gum or lozenges used in school-age children with permanent teeth.

The US team evaluated the effectiveness of using xylitol-containing syrup among 94 children aged 9 to 15 months where early childhood tooth decay is a serious health care problem.

Reporting in the July issue of the US journal, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, University of Washington researchers say cavities in early childhood are increasing in prevalence, especially in the poor.

Dr Peter Milgrom from the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues note in a report: ‘Poor children experience rates twice as high as those of their more affluent peers, and their disease is more likely to be untreated.’


The experts report: ‘Our results suggest that exposure to xylitol (8 grams per day) in a twice-daily topical oral syrup during primary tooth eruption could prevent up to 70% of decayed teeth.’


After an average of 10.5 months, 8 of 33 children (24.2%) receiving two doses of xylitol per day and 13 of the 32 children (40.6%) receiving three doses of xylitol per day had tooth decay, compared with 15 of the 29 children (51.7%) in a control group.


The average numbers of decayed teeth were 0.6 in the two-dose xylitol group, one in the three-dose xylitol group and 1.9 in the control group.


‘These results provide evidence for the first time (to our knowledge) that xylitol is effective for the prevention of decay in primary teeth of toddlers,” Milgrom and colleagues wrote.


‘More research is needed to develop vehicles and strategies for optimal public health, but in populations with high rates of tooth decay, xylitol is likely to be a cost-effective preventive measure,” they conclude.