Xylitol reduces caries in babies

Mums can significantly reduce caries in their babies by wiping their mouths with wipes impregnated with xylitol.

That’s according to new research.

Reporting at the International Association of Dental Research 89th General Session and Exhibition, Ling Zhan, DDS, PhD, assistant professor of dentistry at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), said: ‘We did not find a reduction in the cariogenic organisms, but we found a reduction in caries. This does not follow the usual understanding.’

Evidence is growing that xylitol can fight caries, but how this sugar alcohol affects the disease is not completely well understood.

Whereas older children and adults can chew xylitol gum, these very young children cannot, so researchers are exploring the use of xylitol wipes.

In their study, Dr. Zhan and colleagues at UCSF and the Paediatric Dental Clinic in Sacramento, California, enrolled 44 mother-and-child pairs.

The children ranged in age from 6 to 35 months.

The researchers randomly assigned each mother to wipe her child’s mouth three times a day with wipes that deliver 5.4 mg of xylitol, or a placebo.

Examiners counted the number of surfaces with carious lesions and collected saliva samples at baseline, six months, and one year.

Neither the mothers nor the examiners knew which pairs were using the xylitol.

They used arbitrarily primed polymerase chain reaction to analyse the Streptococcus mutans present in the saliva.

Eighteen pairs in the xylitol group and 11 in the placebo group completed the study.

Five dropout subjects from the placebo group returned at one year.

After one year, there was a significant difference in the mean number of new decayed surfaces between the xylitol group and the placebo group (0.45 vs 0.6; P < .05).

However, the two groups of babies appeared to have the same amount of S mutans in their mouths.

There was no significant difference in the mean log counts of S mutans between babies in the xylitol group and those in the placebo group (2.7 vs 2.8).

In 36% of the children, the researchers found S mutans transmission from the mothers to their children, but these genotypes accounted for only 8% of the total S mutans genotypes in the xylitol group and 12% in the placebo group.

There was a trend toward greater transience in the genotypes of the S mutans in the xylitol group, but it was not statistically significant.

There are various schools of thought why – one suggests that the reason that a change in caries didn’t correlate with a change in S mutans might be that other species of bacteria are involved and another might be that xylitol changes S mutans in some way that makes it less virulent.

Alternatively, xylitol may affect the biofilm in which the organism works.

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