Xylitol and its effect on oral ecology : clinical studies in children and adolescents
Abstract: Xylitol, classified as a natural sugar substitute, has for about 35 years been known as an agent that may act against caries. The mechanism of action; how it inhibits mutans streptococci (MS) and the clinical dose-response relationship are not however fully investigated. The general aim of the investigations was to evaluate the effect of xylitol on oral ecology in children and adolescents. A series of experimental and controlled clinical trials were performed in which samples of saliva and plaque was collected and analysed with respect to xylitol content, pH, microbial composition and lactic acid production. In paper I, significantly reduced proportions of xylitol-sensitive MS in saliva were demonstrated after 18 weeks of regular use of two dose regimens of xylitol-containing tablets (1.7g and 3.4g xylitol/day) but the acidogenicity in dental plaque was not affected. In paper II, the effect on interdental plaque-pH of two different single dose intakes (2.0g and 6.0g) of xylitol was evaluated. The higher xylitol dose counteracted the pH-drop significantly (p<0.05) when the chewing was followed by a sucrose rinse while the lower dose did not differ from the control. In paper III, the xylitol concentrations in saliva after use of different common xylitol-containing products (0.1g-1.3g) were investigated. Statistically significant elevations of salivary xylitol levels were demonstrated for all products during the first 8-16 min when compared with baseline (p<0.05) but the individual variation was considerable. In samples of supragingival dental plaque, a high dose rinse (6.0g) increased the xylitol concentrations for a longer period (>30 min) than a low dose rinse (2.0g). In paper IV, it was demonstrated that 6.0g of xylitol in chewing gums, every day in 4 weeks, gave significantly less visible plaque and a significantly reduced sucrose-induced lactic acid formation (p<0.05) in saliva. Furthermore, the proportion of MS decreased significantly (p<0.05) compared to baseline. In paper V, the salivary uptake of [14C]-xylitol was compared with a specific assay determining xylitol-sensitive MS and a fair positive correlation (p<0.05) between the two assays was found. In a controlled trial, the proportions of MS and the salivary xylitol uptake decreased significantly (p<0.05) in the xylitol gum test group after 4 weeks compared to baseline which was in contrast to the control gum group. No serious adverse effects were reported in any of the investigations.The main conclusions from this thesis were: a) various xylitol-containing products increased the xylitol levels in saliva and plaque, b) 6.0g of xylitol could counteract the interdental pH-drop after sugar consumption and reduce lactic acid formation in saliva c) a daily dose of 6.0g xylitol reduced the amount of visible plaque and altered the salivary microbial composition, d) a transient shift of MS strains in saliva was demonstrated during periods of regular intake of xylitol products but no long-term impact was found after its termination. The relatively high amount of xylitol needed for a beneficial effect on the oral ecology calls for a further development of effective and safe routes for administration.
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