I am a dental hygienist and I have been asked many times how long do you need to use xylitol at the 6-10 grams daily? Forever?? What about small children or babies also forever? at the same dose? After the 6-12 months do you still need the same amount or are you protected with just a small amount or not at all. Not sure how to answer that one.
If you consume 6- 10 grams of xylitol there is a predictable time line of events:
In five weeks you will have eliminated the harmful strep mutans bacteria from plaque on teeth (they will still exist in saliva, on your tongue, mouth mucosa etc)
If you stop now the population around your teeth would simply return.
If you continue to eat xylitol in the 6-10 (anti-bacterial) amount you continue to slowly eliminate strep mutans from the mouth in general.
By the end of three months there is a substantial reduction seen in all patients but it appears to be variable.
By the end of six mouths there is a measurable reduction in all patients of about 90-98 percent in the numbers of these bacteria.
At the end of six months your mouth is “clean” and patients should stop seeing plaque form on their teeth.
This is the state you would be looking for in preparing a parent to kiss their baby or prior to orthodontic treatment or the arrival of new tooth in the mouth ( in a young five year old for example).
If children use xylitol prior to the eruption of molars the bacteria that will first colonize the molar grooves will be healthy ones.
There is research to show that the kind of bacteria in molar grooves is the same kind found elsewhere in the mouth grooves appear to be a reservoir for mouth bacteria ( This somewhat justifies the idea behind sealants).
There is research to show that eating xylitol for a year prior to the eruption of adult molars has the same amount of protection as having sealants applied.
Understanding the “reservoir” effect makes this finding understandable.
There is also research to show that the effects of eating xylitol when used in this way is long-lived. If children are able to have their molar teeth colonized by healthy bacteria as they erupt the effect will be seen up to six years later.
For adults the benefits of changing the mouth flora will be different.
Of course the first six months will give someone the chance to reduce plaque deposits.
Apart from this the benefits or needs will depend on understanding an individual’s risk factors.
(Mouth acidity and dry mouth.)
Of course this will vary age, hormonal disturbance, pregnancy, stress etc.
If someone is at high risk for dental problems you would suggest xylitol as a protective treatment for teeth ( to remineralize and protect) as well as for dry mouth ( to bring moisture to the mouth). Periodic use of xylitol would be suggested after meals and snacks (especially after anything acidic) in this case forever! ( or until the risk factors were gone)
The big problem is to help people to understand risk factors especially how STRESS adds sudden stress to teeth with associated dry mouth and more acidic saliva.
Hope this explains the key facts and when xylitol can help the most.
Thanks for the very good question,