For decades Finnish researchers have been studying the effect of a natural sugar derived from birch trees. The sweetener called xylitol can be used as a sugar substitute. It has been used in chewing gum and Finnish children have been encouraged to chew it to prevent cavities. There is also some data to suggest it may be helpful in reducing the risk of ear infections. Now a study in the Marshall Islands shows that toddlers too young to chew gum safely can benefit from xylitol syrup. The kids who got the syrup had much less decay in their baby teeth.
[Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, July 2009]