Lollipops and decay

Aug. 11, 2011
Delta Dental's Research and Data Institute funds study to help prevent childhood dental disease.

OKEMOS, Michigan--A recent study, published by the European Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, demonstrates that sugar-free lollipops containing licorice root extract significantly reduced the bacteria that causes tooth decay, specifically in preschool children with high-risk of tooth decay.

The study, funded by the Research and Data Institute of the affiliated companies of Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, New Mexico and North Carolina, analyzed 66 preschool students ages 2 to 5 enrolled in the Greater Lansing Area Head Start Program. Each student received a lollipop for 10 minutes twice daily for three weeks.

"Dental decay is one of the most common childhood diseases with more than half of children ages 5 to 17 having had at least one cavity or filling," said Jed J. Jacobson, DDS, MS, MPH, chief science officer at Delta Dental.

"We are working to find simple, effective regimens that will encourage prevention and control of dental disease. While the results of this pilot clinical trial are encouraging, more research is needed to confirm these early findings."

Results showed a significant reduction in Streptococcus mutans(S. mutans), the primary bacteria responsible for tooth decay, during the three-week period when the lollipops were being used and lasting for an additional 22 days before beginning to rebound.

Using a saliva test, the amount of S. mutans in the patient's mouth was measured before and during the three-week period where lollipops were used, as well as for several weeks thereafter.

"The use of the licorice root lollipops is an ideal approach as it will stop the transfer and implantation of the bacteria that cause dental decay from mothers to their infants and toddlers," said Martin Curzon, editor-in-chief, European Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. "It also has the merit of being a low cost-high impact public dental health measure."

Added Jacqueline Tallman, RDH, BS, MPA, principal investigator of the study: "This study is important not only for dental caries prevention research, but also demonstrates the feasibility of a classroom protocol using a unique delivery system suitable for young children. Early prevention is key for lifetime oral health and effective innovative protocols are needed."

The investigation was a collaborative effort of the Greater Lansing Area Head Start Program, the University of Michigan and the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA). Delta Dental's Research and Data Institute provided the grants as part of its mission to remain on the cutting edge of finding solutions to oral health problems.

"Our Head Start program was excited to participate in the lollipop project," said Teresa Spitzer, RN, health programs manager, Capital Community Head Start-Head Start and Early Childhood Programs.

"Staff and parents were intrigued by something as simple as a special lollipop having the ability to decrease the incidence of dental caries in children. The outcomes only reinforced the value the parents placed on the project."

Lollipop fights decay

The lollipops, manufactured by Dr. John's Candies of Grand Rapids, Mich., were developed using FDA-approved materials by Dr. Wenyuan Shi, a microbiologist at UCLA, and C3 Jian, a research and development company in California. The orange-flavored, sugarless lollipops contain extract of licorice root (Glycyrrhiza uralensis), which targets and is thought to kill the primary bacteria (Streptococcus mutans or S. mutans) responsible for tooth decay.

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