Skip to content
News / August 15, 2011

Liquorice lollipop has tooth decay licked

by Guy Hiscott

A sugarfree lollipop that actively fights tooth decay has been hailed a hit by a new study.

The US study reveals that the revolutionary liquorice lollipops can reduce the bacteria associated with tooth decay.

The investigation, conducted in Lansing, Michigan, among pre-school children ages 2 to 5 years, found that the lollipops – the brainchild of microbiologist and dentistry professor Wenyuan Shi – reduced Streptococcus mutans.

In the study, 66 pre-school students enrolled in the Greater Lansing Area Head Start Program were given a lollipop that contained liquorice root extract for 10 minutes twice daily for three weeks.

The researchers used a saliva test to measure the level of S. mutans in each child’s mouth before and during the three-week study, as well as for several weeks after the children stopped getting the lollipops.

The investigators found a significant reduction in S. mutans during the study, and the reduction lasted for an additional 22 days before the organisms began to rebound.

Martin Curzon, editor-in-chief of European Academy of Paediatric Dentistry, which published the study, noted that liquorice lollipops are ‘an ideal approach as it will stop the transfer and implantation of the bacteria that cause dental decay from mothers to their infants and toddlers.’

The liquorice lollipops were made using ingredients approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Liquorice root extract (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) is believed to kill S. mutans, which is just one of an estimated 700 types of bacteria found in the human mouth.

Although most of the bacteria are harmless, S. mutans survives in plaque and releases acid that causes tooth decay.

Jacqueline Tallman, RDH, BS, MPA, the study’s principal investigator, said that the findings of the study involving the use of the liquorice lollipops in the 66 pre-school children are ‘important not only for dental caries prevention research but also demonstrates the feasibility of a classroom protocol using a unique delivery system suitable for young children’.

The authors believe the results warrant the next step: randomised clinical trials using sugar-free liquorice root lollipops or liquorice root extract in other forms that will help fight tooth decay in children.

The lollipops, manufactured by Dr John’s Candies of Grand Rapids, Michigan, were developed using FDA-approved materials by Dr Shi at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and C3 Jian, Inc., a research and development company in California.

The orange-flavoured, sugarless lollipops contain extract of licorice root (Glycyrrhiza uralensis), which targets and is thought to kill the primary bacteria (Streptococcus mutans or S. mutans) responsible for tooth decay.

Shi collaborated with scientists in China to explore traditional herbs, eventually discovering that liquorice root was one of the most effective especially as the extract does not kill the other bacteria in the mouth necessary for good oral health.

The full study results can be viewed at