Dear Dr. Reitz: My husband’s mouth is constantly dry, so to help stimulate saliva he sucks on xylitol candy during the day. Do you have any recommendation better than xylitol to help his situation without causing tooth decay? – Susan, Spring Ridge
Dear Susan: Xylitol-sweetened candy is a great way to stimulate saliva without causing decay. In addition to candy sweetened with xylitol, a newly discovered ingredient may be a benefit to your husband. Recently a candy in the form of a lollipop and lozenge came to market that contains glycyrrhiza uralensis (commonly called licorice root extract). This herb has been found to kill the main bacteria responsible for causing tooth decay.
Licorice root extract has been used in Chinese cultures for its taste and health benefits for thousands of years. About seven years ago, a researcher at UCLA Dental School tested various ancient herbs looking for dental benefits and discovered an herbal formula extracted from licorice root was effective at reducing tooth decay.
Using this new information the company HealthyGrid, established in 2013, created a lozenge and lollipop called Loloz that contain the licorice root extract, which they termed Cavibloc. To add the sweet taste needed in a candy, the Loloz candies choose to use the sweetener Stevia. Xylitol and Stevia are both artificial sweeteners that occur naturally in nature, neither promotes tooth decay.
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria ferment carbohydrates and produce acid, which dissolve and remove the calcium from the tooth. The licorice root-containing lollipop temporarily inhibits the bacteria (S. Mutans, S. Sorblinus and Lactobacilli) all known to cause tooth decay.
Since discovering the licorice root extract lollipops, I have recommended them to young children and adults that are prone to tooth decay. They are also beneficial for anyone with dry mouth. I can say the response to sucking on candy to promote oral health has been positively received. From my research, Loloz lollipops and lozenges are available only online.
Having a dry mouth is both annoying and a major cause of tooth decay. Saliva has many functions, including cleaning and protecting the teeth.