Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is frequently used as a sweetener. It has been shown to reduce levels of the harmful mutans streptococci (MS) bacteria that are known to cause tooth decay.
In the study led by Kiet A. Ly, school children were given four bears three times a day, containing different concentrations of xylitol.
He found that after six weeks of gummy bear snacking, the levels of harmful MS bacteria in the children's plaque was significantly reduced.
"Based on our findings, it is feasible to develop a clinical trial of a gummy-based caries prevention programme. Such a study is now being carried out in the East Cleveland primary school district (Ohio, USA)," said Ly.
"For xylitol to be successfully used in oral health promotion programmes amongst primary-school children, an effective means of delivering xylitol must be identified. Gummy bears would seem to be more ideal than chewing gum," he added.
The research is published today in the open access journal BMC Oral Health.