studies enrolling a total of almost 4,000 people, mostly children, have found that xylitol gum, candy, or toothpaste can help prevent
One study also suggested that gummi bears may be an effective alternative method of administering xylitol to children.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 1,677 children compared a standard fluoride toothpaste with a similar toothpaste that also contained 10% xylitol.
Over the 3-year study period, children given the xylitol-enriched toothpaste developed significantly fewer cavities than those in the fluoride-only group.
In another trial, a 40-month, double-blind study of 1,277 children, researchers studied gum products containing various concentrations of xylitol and/or sorbitol.
Participants were divided into nine groups: xylitol gum in four different concentrations, two forms of xylitol/sorbitol gum, sorbitol-only gum, sucrose (ordinary sugar) gum, or no gum.
The gum with the highest xylitol concentration proved most effective at reducing cavities. However, children in every one of the xylitol and/or sorbitol gum groups showed significant reductions in cavities as compared to the sugar gum or no-gum groups.
Another series of studies suggests that children acquire cavity-causing bacteria from their mothers; regular use of xylitol by a mother of a newborn child may provide some protection to the child, as well.
One large double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 857 children investigated how well xylitol (in chewing gum, syrup, and lozenges) could prevent
The gum was most effective, reducing the risk of developing ear infections by a full 40%. Xylitol syrup was also effective, but less so. The lozenges weren't effective; researchers speculated that children got tired of sucking on the large candies and didn't get the proper dose of xylitol. (In addition, the children were able to distinguish between the xylitol and placebo lozenges by taste, making that portion of the study
Similarly positive results had been seen in an earlier double-blind study by the same researchers, evaluating about 300 children.
Authors who subsequently published a careful review of this and other evidence did find support for the use of xylitol to prevent ear infections, especially in healthy children attending day care.
They pointed out, though, the need for more trials from a range of researchers.