ScienceDaily — The tooth-protecting sugar substitute xylitol has been incorporated into gummy bears to produce a sweet snack that may prevent dental problems. Giving children four of the xylitol bears three times a day during school hours results in a decrease in the plaque bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is frequently used as a sweetener. It has been shown to reduce levels of the harmful mutans streptococci (MS) bacteria that are known to cause tooth decay. While xylitol chewing gums are available, they are not considered to be suitable for younger children. This research was led by Kiet A. Ly from the University of Washington.
He says, “For xylitol to be successfully used in oral health promotion programmes amongst primary-school children, an effective means of delivering xylitol must be identified. Gummy bears would seem to be more ideal than chewing gum.”
Anyone else sense a trend here?
It’s no mystery why “cavity-fighting candy” has such appeal. Most of us are pretty drawn towards sweets – so why not play on that weakness as a way of controlling oral bacteria and minimizing the risk of decay and caries?
Yet young children don’t make the distinction between “good” candy and “bad.” Candy is candy. So by using such sweets, might we inadvertently reinforce a bad habit – eating lots of sweet stuff – and ultimately detract from any clinical good the substances may do?
Why not, instead, instill healthy eating behaviors and good oral hygiene habits in children – brushing, flossing and otherwise disturbing the biofilm that, left to its own devices, can lead to decay, gum disease and a host of other problems? Sure, it’s a lot harder than handing over some candy. But it’s also a more useful approach to helping children develop healthy habits for a lifetime.