Guidelines for using xylitol as a means to prevent tooth decay.
How should xylitol be used so to maximize its preventive benefits?
In order to produce its optimal cavity prevention effects, xylitol must be utilized using a specific regimen. A person must consume xylitol on a daily basis and in an amount that lies within certain baseline guidelines. Additionally, each day's quantity should be divided up into separate doses spread throughout the day. And finally, this daily, multiple-exposure regimen must be continued for several months before xylitol's optimal levels of anti-cavity protection can be expected to exist.
What quantities of xylitol are needed to provide optimal anti-cavity protection?
A number of studies have evaluated the effect of varying quantities of daily xylitol consumption in relationship to its ability to provide protection from tooth decay. While no formal set of dosing recommendations exist, from these studies an idea of the general daily xylitol exposure required to produce optimal anti-cavity protection can be garnered.
In order to have a significant effect on the streptococcus mutans bacteria found in a person's mouth and therefore produce an effect on a person's tooth decay rate, an adult needs to consume somewhere on the order of four to twelve grams of xylitol daily (broken up into three to five doses throughout the day).
The peak anti-cavity effects of xylitol usage are not achieved instantaneously. This daily xylitol regimen needs to be continued for at least six months before an optimal level cavity protection can be expected to exist.
Don't go overboard, keep your xylitol consumption at sensible levels.
When deciding how much xylitol you personally should consume each day, we want to make sure that you understand that use of elevated amounts of xylitol do not produce a corresponding elevated level of tooth decay reduction. This point can be substantiated by the following.
One of the "Turku Xylitol Studies" performed in Finland back in the 1970's evaluated xylitol doses of both 6.7 and 67 grams per day. The level of tooth decay formation reduction associated with the daily 6.7-gram xylitol exposure was 82% whereas the daily 67-gram exposure produced a statistically identical reduction of 85%.
Xylitol consumption can cause gastrointestinal difficulties.
We mention this because there can be difficulties associated with the consumption of xylitol. Xylitol is known to produce a laxative effect when a person's ingestion level reaches on the order of 50 grams of xylitol per day. Even at lower levels stomach upset, excessive gas, or diarrhea can be experienced. A person will simply need to ease into their use of xylitol and experiment with different quantities per day until they determine what level of consumption is appropriate for them.
Using xylitol with children as a means to prevent tooth decay.
Balancing the use of an effective level of daily xylitol consumption with concerns associated with xylitol's potential for creating gastrointestinal difficulties leads to the question of an appropriate xylitol dosing for children. We found a study (Vernacchio, 2007) that evaluated the ingestion of an oral solution of xylitol (taken for medical reasons) by young children (ages 6 to 36 months). The finding of this study was that the ingestion of as much as 5 grams of xylitol, three times a day, was well tolerated. This level exceeds even the high end of the range suggested for optimal xylitol exposure for adults.
We also found studies that evaluated regular xylitol usage as a means of reducing decay rates with groups of children. Makinen (1995) studied doses of up to 9.7 grams of xylitol a day with ten-year olds (over a three year time period). Makinen (2005) evaluated doses of up to 5 grams a day of xylitol with five-year olds (over a 6 month time period).