A previous caries trial (Belize studies) involved the usage of sucrose chewing-gum for a period of 40 months in one group of initially 10-year-old subjects in an environment of high sugar consumption, high caries activity, and limited access to restorative care. After the termination of the 40-month supervised sucrose gum usage, the 109 subjects of the original sucrose group retrieved at the endpoint of the original trial were invited to participate in a xylitol chewing-gum programme (involving the usage of the ‘100% pellet-shaped formular’) for 16 months. The average daily consumption level of xylitol was up to 14 g per subject, normally used in seven daily chewing episodes. Although most subjects used chewing-gum at schools and received their gum portions from a school official, gum chewing during these 16 months was mostly unsupervised. After 16 months, 83 subjects (76%; mean age 14.9 years) were retrieved. The caries status of these subjects was examined by the same calibrated, blinded examiners as in the original trial. To mask the examiners, 141 similar non-participating subjects were recruited from the same school classes and were examined in a random order with the gum-using subjects, according to the same standard routine. The intensified xylitol gum usage for 16 months was associated with a reduction of the mean DMFS score from 10.9 (at 40 months) to 9.3 (at 56 months, p = 0.0013) and a reduction in caries rate from 20.1 caries onsets per 1,000 surface-years (40-month period average rate) to 10.2 caries onsets per 1,000 surface-years. The reduction in DMFS score resulted mostly from the change in the D component of the index and possibly reflected a stabilisation of the caries process and rehardening of some caries lesions to a non-progressive carious state.

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