The most widely used sugar alcohols are: xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol and the products Lycasin® and Palatinit®. It is often claimed that xylitol is superior to the other sugar alcohols for caries control. This paper examines clinical studies on the caries-preventive and therapeutic effects of sugar alcohols with emphasis on sorbitol and xylitol. It is concluded that chewing sugar-free gum 3 or more times daily for prolonged periods of time may reduce caries incidence irrespective of the type of sugar alcohol used. It may be sufficient to do this only on school days. Sucking xylitol-containing candies or tablets may have a similar effect as chewing xylitol chewing gum. Clinical trials suggest greater caries reductions from chewing gums sweetened with xylitol than from gums sweetened with sorbitol. However, the superiority of xylitol was not confirmed in 2 out of 4 clinical trials comparing the caries-preventive effect of xylitol- with sorbitol-sweetened gums. The caries-preventive effects of polyol-containing gums and candies seem to be based on stimulation of the salivary flow, although an antimicrobial effect cannot be excluded. There is no evidence for a caries-therapeutic effect of xylitol. These conclusions are in line with those of recent reviews and with the conclusions of the Scientific Committee on Medicinal Products and Medical Devices of the EU Commission.

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