Chew On This

Something To Chew On

The goal of dentistry is to prevent rather than treat disease.  To this end there is ongoing research to utilize and continually update our scientific database so that we are better able to control the underlying pathology of dental disease and not just treat the symptoms.

As I have stated in previous columns, scientific evidence suggests to us that oral mutants streptococci or MS is the primary pathogen (read germ) that is responsible for dental caries or decay.  A recent study reported in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Society (JADA) looked at a more "user friendly" way to suppress MS levels on teeth for extended periods of time.

Of course you already know that one way to prevent cavities is to use fluoride and sealants along with good oral care.

Another way to prevent dental disease is to suppress MS activity in the mouth.  The researchers in the JADA study were looking for a way to do this consistently and for extended periods.

Currently dentists may prescribe the antimicrobial mouth rinse chlorhexidine, o CHX, to suppress MS levels.  It can be quite effective for short periods of time.It is unpredictable how long and how well CHX will suppress MS levels on any given patient and you cannot use it for too long a period or repeat treatments too close together or it will stain teeth and dental restorations and it may alter taste sensations.

The research team reasoned that the use of sugar-free chewing gum with xylitol might be an effective adjunctive means of prolonging the suppression of MS.  They specifically choose sugar-free gum with the ingredient xylitol because xylitol has antimicrobial action on MS, it increases saliva flow which neutralizes the acid levels which leads to demineralization of teeth and it is not easily fermented by microorganisms in the mouth.  MS can ferment Sorbitol so sugar-free gum with Sorbitol would not suppress MS levels.

The results of their research demonstrated that xylitol chewing gum did suppress MS activity after CHX treatments.

The authors felt that chewing sugarless gum with xylitol would be a well accepted addition in the arsenal of defense mechanisms against MS that include fluoride, sealants, preventative dental visits, good oral care with brushing and flossing and a healthy diet.

Dr. Stephen Petras

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