Chew Gum to Protect Your Child's Teeth

Reduce mother-child transmission of the cavity-causing mutans

Chew Gum To Protect Your Child's Teeth, Healthy Living Magazine, Parenting

Chew Gum To Protect Your Child's Teeth, Healthy Living Magazine, Parenting

The good tooth candy of the future is here. Mothers should be going to the same candy store to make sure their children are born and raised to have strong dentins.

The June 20, 2013 issue of Community Dental Oral Epidemiology reports reduced mother-child transmission of the cavity-causing bacteria mutans streptococci (MS) “in earlier years seems to have long-term effects on children’s dental health.”

The study follows the cavity trajectory of children whose mothers used xylitol gum and mints during and following pregnancy. Studies tracking these kids are now showing long-term residues that translate into better health.

“Mother’s use of xylitol reduces cavities in their children and need for restorative treatment in assumed high-caries-risk children…” says the new study.

A Finnish study carried out in the 1990s had high-cavity-risk mothers using xylitol gum on daily basis whereas the high-risk control mothers were receiving biannual fluoride or chlorhexidine treatments. The study, published in the March, 2000 Journal of Dental Research, demonstrated significant reductions in bacterial levels when mothers chewed xylitol gum during pregnancy. The study was conducted in Finland by Dr. Eva Söderling from the University of Turku and Dr. Pauli Isokangas from the Ylivieska Health Care Center. Mothers were recruited for the study during pregnancy and were assigned to one of three study groups. The mothers in the test group received xylitol gum for the duration of the study (3-5 times a day from 3 to 24 months) after the child was born. The mothers in the two control groups received fluoride or chlorhexidine varnish applications at 6, 12 and 18 months following delivery. It was shown that the colonization of the children’s dental plaque by Mutans streptococci was five-fold higher in the fluoride group and three-fold higher in the chlorhexidine group as compared to the xylitol group. “These results demonstrate that the regular use of xylitol chewing gum by the mothers of newborn children reduces mother-child transmission of mutans streptococci. The significantly-reduced mutans streptococci colonization observed in these children should extrapolate into a significant reduction in tooth decay.”

In children 5-years old the dentinal cavities in the xylitol group was reduced by about 70% as compared with that in the fluoride or chlorhexidine group.

“We conclude that maternal use of xylitol chewing gum can prevent dental caries in their children by prohibiting the transmission of MS from mother to child,” the researchers wrote.


When carbohydrate or sugars are consumed, acid is produced in the mouth and the pH drops rapidly below pH 5.7, causing demineralization of tooth enamel and potential cavities. Since xylitol is a five-carbon sugar, bacteria do not metabolize it and therefore no acid is produced.


Look for xylitol-sweetened products such as gum and mints that encourage chewing or sucking to keep the xylitol in contact with teeth.

Between meals replace ordinary chewing gum, breath mints or breath spray with comparable xylitol products. Be sure the label of the product lists xylitol as the principal sweetener. Quality xylitol products are most readily available at health food stores and natural food markets.

Xylitol must be used daily and regularly. Use xylitol five times per day. Studies show that 4 to 12 grams of xylitol per day are effective.

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