Xylitol and sorbitol effects on the microbiome of saliva and plaque

Reisha Rafeek, Christine V.F. Carrington, Andres Gomez, Derek Harkins, Manolito Torralba, Claire Kuelbs, Jonas Addae, Ahmed Moustafa, Karen E. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Chewing gum containing xylitol may help prevent caries by reducing levels of mutans streptococci (MS) and lactobacilli in saliva and plaque. Very little is known about other species which are possibly beneficial to oral health. In this study, we employed high-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to profile microbial communities of saliva and plaque following short-term consumption of xylitol and sorbitol containing chewing gum. Participants (n = 30) underwent a washout period and were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Each group chewed either xylitol or sorbitol gum for three weeks, before undergoing a second four-week washout period after which they switched to the alternate gum for three weeks. Analysis of samples collected before and after each intervention identified distinct plaque and saliva microbial communities that altered dependent on the order in which gum treatments were given. Neither the xylitol nor sorbitol treatments significantly affected the bacterial composition of plaque. Lactobacilli were undetected and the number of Streptococcus mutans sequence reads was very low and unaffected by either xylitol or sorbitol. However, sorbitol affected several other streptococcal species in saliva including increasing the abundance of S. cristatus, an oral commensal shown to inhibit bacteria associated with chronic periodontitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1536181
JournalJournal of Oral Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge funding from the UWI St. Augustine Campus Research and Publications Fund to RR (CRP.3.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the J Craig Venter Institute University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus [CRP.3.MAR14.7]. The authors acknowledge funding from the UWI St. Augustine Campus Research and Publications Fund to RR (CRP.3.MAR14.7) and from The J Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). We also acknowledge contributions from Kevin Pham and Kelvin Moncera at JCVI and Anna-Kay Bishop, Tamika Peters, Charissa Bandoo and Shamjeet Singh from the UWI. There are no conflicts of interest with any of the authors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Caries
  • bacteria
  • microbial ecology
  • microbiome
  • plaque
  • saliva


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