Effect of Xylitol Consumption on the Oral Microbiome

The increased consumption of sugar has resulted in systemic health concerns such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, and poor oral health. Such concerns have led to the broad use of sugar substitutes in foods and food products such as chewing gums. As dental caries and oral health have been associated with the consumption of sugars that can be converted by bacterial fermentation to acids, xylitol has become widely used as a sugar substitute and has been associated with prevention of caries development, and reduction of gingival plaque and Mutans Streptococci. Additionally these associations have yet to be thoroughly investigated using genomics approaches. Our study focuses on characterizing the microbial community in plaque and saliva samples of two cohorts using xylitol or sorbitol based chewing gums.

Results indicated that neither xylitol or sorbitol significantly affected the bacterial composition of plaque. We did however, determined that sorbitol affected the abundance of several Streptococcal species in saliva. Currently this is the first genomics based research study to focus on the changes in the microbial community as related to the use of sugar substitutes in chewing gum.


Journal of oral microbiology. 2019-01-01; 11.1: 1536181.
Xylitol and sorbitol effects on the microbiome of saliva and plaque
Rafeek R, Carrington CVF, Gomez A, Harkins D, Torralba M, Kuelbs C, Addae J, Moustafa A, Nelson KE
PMID: 30598728


Funding for this project provided through the University of West Indies.

Principal Investigator

Key Staff

  • Claire Kuelbs


Christine Carrington and Reisha Rafeek
University of the West Indies

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