But not just any sugarless gum. Researchers from Foresight Links, a private, Toronto-based research group, did the study. They reviewed studies on the health effects of gum made with common sugar alcohols, or polyols. They are found in many chewing gums, foods, toothpastes and candies.These compounds taste like sugar, but do not lead to tooth decay. Xylitol and sorbitol are the most common polyols used in gum.
The researchers reviewed 19 studies from 8 countries. They found that people who chewed gum containing xylitol, alone or with sorbitol, had fewer than half as many cavities as people who did not chew gum. People who chewed sorbitol gum had 20% fewer cavities.
People chewed the gum more than once a day. Nine studies reported people chewing the gum at specific times. Five other studies said that people always chewed the gum after a meal. People in the studies chewed gum every day for at least two or three years. In a few of the studies involving children, they chewed gum only on school days.
The amount of polyols in the gum varied. Most people got between 3 grams and 8 grams of xylitol or sorbitol a day. In three studies, people consumed nearly 11 grams per day.
The researchers found people had the fewest cavities with the highest doses of xylitol. Xylitol can cause diarrhea at very high doses (more than about 9 grams per day for every 50 pounds of body weight).
The authors concluded that people should chew gum containing xylitol and/or sorbitol as part of their everyday oral hygiene.