Study: Most Sugar-Free Chewing Gums in GCC Do Not Have Clear Labelling on Xylitol

Muscat – Most sugar-free chewing gums sold in the GCC do not have clear labelling that mentions the recommended daily dose of xylitol for caries prevention, according to a study.

It was conducted by Dr. Abrar Alanzi, assistant professor, Department of Preventive and Developmental Science, Faculty of Dentistry, Kuwait University and her team to measure the xylitol content in sugar-free chewing gums available in GCC in order to identify those products that can provide the recommended daily dose of xylitol for caries prevention.

Of the 21 brands collected (from Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman), only one clearly mentioned the exact gram of the sugar substitute on its label, said Dr. Abrar. “Xylitol was extracted from these products and its concentration was analysed using a special enzymatic kit. We found that of the 21 brands, only one clearly mentioned the exact gram, 12 others stated only the percentage of xylitol (3.5 per cent to 35 per cent). The rest did not mention the amount of xylitol.”

She added, “Looking at the percentage, it is not easy for the consumer to calculate the actual amount of xylitol in grams. A consumer should be informed of the contents and the amount used in the product so that he can make an informed decision. It might be difficult to get the information about the item from the company’s website as well.”

The recommended daily dose of xylitol to prevent dental caries ranges between 3g and 8g. The intake can be divided up to three to seven times, said Dr Abrar. “However, a majority of dental associations across the world follow the Finnish Dental Association’s recommendation of up to 6g to 7g of xylitol to prevent dental caries.”

Explaining how xylitol works, she said, “Oral bacteria do not metabolise xylitol; therefore, no acid is produced. This means that xylitol reduces the quantity of dental plaque and prevents it from gaining hold on dental surfaces, preventing additional caries and providing protection between brushing and flossing.

“Xylitol also inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the main bacteria associated with dental caries. Also, it enhances remineralisation, a process of reversing superficial cavities or small decay spots confined to the enamel surface,” she said. The study concludes that majority of xylitol chewing gums in GCC do not provide consumers with the recommended daily dose for caries prevention. Clear, accurate labelling is recommended. Currently, Dr Abrar’s report is available to provide consumers and clinicians with information about xylitol-containing chewing gums in GCC and the Middle East.

“The National Dental Association in Oman and those in other GCC countries should adopt the recommendations while labelling current xylitol products. This will guide consumers and clinicians to effectively use xylitol for caries prevention.”