September 6, 2012
By the time I was five years old, all my deciduous molars were decayed and painful. A trip to the dentist provided no pain relief. The dentist told my mother that the cavities were in baby teeth that didn’t need to be repaired. He though he was giving us good news, but the pain remained. When asked to pull the teeth to relieve the pain, he simply shrugged off the idea saying that these teeth didn’t need to be pulled as they would eventually fall out by themselves. To control the pain he said, “That’s simple, just have her chew Aspirgum!” And so the toothaches continued. I cried from the pain, but was given Aspirgum. Of course, Aspirgum contained sugar, providing nutrition to the bacteria causing the problems!
Xylitol wasn’t available when I was born, but children today still suffer the pain of unprevented tooth decay. Now, after 40 years of xylitol research, the evidence is clear that caries can be prevented and early lesions reversed through the daily use of xylitol. In fact, xylitol use should begin before the teeth erupt, to establish a healthy oral flora. Backing up one more step, mother’s need a healthy flora before their babies are born as they are their baby’s primary source of oral bacteria through kissing, sharing food and even “cleaning” a pacifier that falls on the floor.
Based on these findings, a baby’s first dental visit should occur before they are born. Moms using xylitol are less likely to pass on Strep mutans to their babies. To effectively prevent tooth decay, it must begin before birth with the mother and continue with the child through tooth eruption, both primary and permanent.
If only my mother had xylitol when I was an infant, I wouldn’t have the mouthful of dental restorations I have today. We can’t change the past, but we can definitely change the future.
By Trisha E. O’Hehir, RDH, MS