A new study has found that sugar-free lollipops containing licorice root extract significantly reduce the bacteria that causes tooth decay, specifically in pre-school children at high risk. The findings appear in the European Archives of Pediatric Dentistry journal.

For the study, 66 preschool students ages 2 to 5 were given a lollipop for 10 minutes twice daily for 3 weeks. Using a saliva test, researchers measured the amount of Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans) in the patient’s mouth before and during the 3-week period where lollipops were used, as well as for several weeks thereafter.

Results showed a significant reduction in S. mutans, the primary bacteria responsible for tooth decay, during the 3-week period when the lollipops were being used and for an additional 22 days afterwards.

“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 of European Archives of Pediatric Dentistry. “It also has the merit of being a low-cost, high-impact public dental health measure.”

The lollipops, manufactured by Dr. John’s Candies, Grand Rapids, Mich, were developed using FDA-approved materials by Wenyuan Shi, PhD, a microbiologist at UCLA, and C3 Jian Inc, Inglewood, Calif, a research and development company. The orange-flavored, sugarless lollipops contain extract of licorice root (Glycyrrhiza uralensis), which targets and is thought to kill S. mutans.