Here’s great news for gum chewers! Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in Minneapolis discovered that a new gum sweetened with xylitol (pronounced zy-li-tall) actually reduces the formation of cavity-causing bacteria on your teeth.

In the study, researchers measured the levels of the bacteria streptococcus mutans in the mouths of 151 cavity-prone individuals. Those who chewed the xylitol-sweetened gum for at least five minutes after eating had significantly lower levels of these destructive bacteria on their teeth than did those who chewed other gum, or none at all.

“While chewing gum discourages cavities by stimulating saliva flow and neutralizing acids in the mouth, gum sweetened with xylitol is the only kind that actively discourages the growth of mutans streptococci, the bacteria that promote cavities.

In contrast, gums sweetened with sugar or sorbitol can feed the growth,” said lead study author Gary Hildebrandt, DDS, associate clinical professor of dentistry at the University of Minnesota.

Another bonus of chewing xylitol-sweetened gum – the bacteria are working so hard to eliminate the xylitol they have no energy left to reproduce. And, according to study results, xylitol has this repressive effect for as long as three months.