Can Xylitol Prevent Ear Infections?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Can Xylitol Prevent Ear InfectionsEar infections are bound to happen at one point during a child’s life. By the age of three, about 83% of children have had at least one episode.1

And if you’re a parent, you know they’re not fun at all. They can lead to miserable nights and missed school days.

Making matters worse, the antibiotics often prescribed are not harmless drugs. They lead to imbalances in gut bacteria which can lead to future health problems down the road.

So what’s a parent to do?

For one, there's always prevention. Xylitol, an ingredient found in mints and chewing gum, may actually help. In a study, it was found to reduce the risk of acute ear infections by a whopping 25%.1

The Study on Xylitol and Ear Infections

The emergence of superbugs has led scientists to seek alternatives to antibiotics. Some of the older classes of antibiotics used to treat ear infections are not as effective as they use to be.

Researchers reviewed 4 clinical trials. The sample included 3,103 children aged 12 or younger who attended day care. They were given xylitol gum, syrup or lozenges during the trials.

In 3 out of the 4 trials, xylitol was found to reduce the risk of ear infections (in any form) by 25%. The fourth trial did not find a significant effect. In the 4 trials, no adverse effects were reported.1

Xylitol Has Anti-Bacterial Properties and Increases Salivary Flow

So what is about xylitol that makes it work? First, it has anti-bacterial properties. It’s been shown to inhibit the growth of bacterial species that are implicated in ear infections.1

Second, xylitol increases the secretion of saliva2. Saliva carries lactoferrin and immunoglobulins which fight microbial invaders. A dry mouth encourages the growth of unfriendly bacteria which could otherwise become problematic.

Xylitol is a natural sugar found in fruits, vegetables, and birch trees. It has a sweet flavor but lacks the detrimental effects of table sugar. It won’t encourage the development of cavities, so it’s a safe sweetener to use in gum, mints, and syrups.

The Bottom Line

Don’t get us wrong — we’re certainly not against getting kids the appropriate medical treatment. We just think it’s smarter to prevent health problems rather than treat them, whenever possible.

An overuse of antibiotics can be detrimental to your child’s health, so please exercise caution. And remember: Building your child’s immune system is the best line of defense, hands down!

Thinking about having your child give xylitol a try? The general suggestion is 8.4 grams of xylitol in the form of chewing gum. It should be taken five times a day after meals for at least five minutes. Of course, before trying it, please discuss it with your child’s pediatrician.


  1. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Nov 9;(11):CD007095.
  2. Eur J Paediatr Dent. 2010 Mar;11(1):9-14.


Elisha Lillian said...

Does it cause any side effects?

Life Extension said...

Elisha Lillian - In higher doses, xylitol may cause diarrhea.

Anonymous said...

a dentist said that xylitol cures lichen planus! Have xylitol mouthwash and it seems to help!

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