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Penn Students Use Xyletol Gum To Help Fight World Tooth Decay

A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer chronicled the journey of a team of five friends from the University of Pennsylvania who developed “Sweet Bites” chewing gum that is made with the sugar substitute called xyletol that helps fight tooth decay. Their goal was to compete for and win the Hult Prize which is a $1 million seed funding for the best proposal to ease chronic illness in urban areas.

The Penn students made it past nearly 11,000 other teams and were among the final six groups selected to the awards dinner with our 42nd U.S. President, Bill Clinton. It is he who sets the topic each year for which the teams compete.

The idea for the use of the gum was born from a trip that one of the co-founders made to India where she worked at schools in low-income communities. It was here that she saw that many of the children would never smile because of their pool oral health and dental problems. When she told this to one of the other co-founders (an avid gum chewer), he remembered the cavity-fighting properties of xyletol and they knew it was a perfect fit. The gum sells for only 1.6 pennies per piece and was named #1 in Huffington Post’s “11 Simple Inventions That Could Change The World.”

Although Team Sweet Bites lost the competition to a group named NanoHealth that envisioned a network of health workers equipped with an innovative diagnostic and treatment for the underserved, they have brought to light on an outstanding way to fight decay in areas where dentist and dental care is non-existant.

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