Today the Wall Street Journal published Halloween dental advice about preventing cavities. Dr. Ruchi Sahota, the spokeswoman for the American Dental Association, agreed “sugar-free chewing gum” combats harmful bacteria in the mouth and certain studies show xylitol adds minerals to tooth enamel. Then came the “but” ….as Dr. Sahota explains the evidence is not conclusive to show xylitol prevents cavities.
I want patients to be aware of this “cause” argument, because it is often used to muddy scientific waters. There are people who say bad teeth do not “cause” heart attacks, and gum disease does not “cause” dementia etc. They are technically correct because there is only a link. For example, gum disease bacteria produce inflammation that spreads through the body and results in higher risk for heart attack, dementia etc. As you can see, it’s politician-type talk. The words are correct but they give the wrong impression to the listener. I have a problem because it’s not truth – it’s deceptive.
The reason it’s so difficult to prove something is a “cause”of a health problems is because you’d have to create conditions that give some in the study group a heart attack etc. For teeth, we’d have to give one group of test children sugar candies to “cause” cavities and compare with the kids eating xylitol. Of course this would be unethical and scientists know it. The problem is that the public mis-interpret these statements – assuming it means “there is no connection” – which is grossly untrue.
I suggest you take what the ADA says about xylitol with a grain of salt (or xylitol) and although the ADA says “nothing takes the place of your toothbrush to keep your teeth and gums healthy” I’d like to see some causal science to prove that!
Here is a link to another blog article on this subject: