by Rhoda Kublickis, RDH, MHSc - Xylitol Educator

Nationally the American Dental Hygiene Association (ADHA) encourages students across the country to pose a question for a research paper. On a local level each dental hygiene schools participates in a state presentation of these research papers with a table clinic. Brittany Jicha, Adrianna DiBiase and Annie Moran are dental hygiene students from Eastern Florida State College in Cocoa Beach Florida and they chose xylitol for their research topic. The trio presented their table clinic at the Brevard County Dental Hygiene meeting this past April.

Below are the student’s responses to questions I asked them about their experience.

How did you become familiar with xylitol?

While in dental assisting school, Brittany had heard of the benefits of xylitol. Adrianna DiBiase learned about xylitol while she was a dental assistant for Dr. David Che from Cocoa Beach Dentistry. Dr. Che consistently recommended xylitol mints and xylitol mouthwash.

What question did you pose for your research/table clinic presentation?

The students wanted to know the answer to this question: What effect, if any, does xylitol have on quantity of bacteria in the oral cavity?

What was the case study protocol?

While xylitol and oral health have been studied since World War II, people are still curious about the connection between the two and dental hygiene and dental assisting students are among this group. These students asked some of their fellow dental assisting and dental hygiene student peers, at Eastern Florida State College, to be part of the control or test group in their case study. The control group consisted of 5 students who all had a high caries risk. Their mouths were swabbed at the beginning of the study. A meter, (Carie Free) that measures bacteria count, was used to document bacteria levels. The students did not change their home care for the duration of the study. At the conclusion of the study the five control patients were re-swabbed and the bacteria levels were measured again.

The test group also consisted of fived dental assisting/dental hygiene students who had a high caries risk. They swabbed each student and measured the initial bacteria count. They then had the subjects utilize ONLY dental care products with xylitol at least 5 times per day. The products used were toothpaste, floss, mouth rinse, gums, & mints. All products that contained fluoride were discontinued for the duration of the study. The students tested the bacteria count after the conclusion of the study period (about 3 weeks).

What were the results of your case study?

The graphs demonstrate that in the control group, 3 of the 5 students actually had an increase in the numbers of bacteria during the study. This is interesting, especially given that dental assisting and dental hygiene students are educated about how to properly maintain the health of their mouths.

In comparison, the data on the test group shows four out of the five subjects reduced the bacterial load significantly with 3 of those 4 noting more than a 60% decrease in bacterial load.

What was the answer to the question you posed?

Based upon the overall results of the study, the answer to the question is, yes, xylitol does reduce the numbers of bacteria in the oral cavity.

Will you implement xylitol into your private practice?

The students who were part of the study will definitely implement the use xylitol in their private practice. The majority will still recommend fluoride use for the prevention of caries in addition to a xylitol protocol of “Striving for 5” exposures of xylitol daily, which results in consuming 6-10 grams per day. This is the recommended dosage for improvement of dental health.

What roadblocks if any will prevent you from implementing xylitol?

Each one of the students felt that if they do not have xylitol products in office to give to patients that will limit their ability to educate the general public about quality xylitol products.