Background: Dental caries incidence in adults is similar to that in children and adolescents, but few caries preventive agents have been evaluated for effectiveness in adults populations. In addition, dentists direct fewer preventive services to their adult patients. Xylitol, an over-the-counter sweetener, has shown some potential as a caries preventive agent, but the evidence for its effectiveness is not yet conclusive and is based largely on studies in child populations.Methods/Design: X-ACT is a three-year, multi-center, placebo controlled, double-blind, randomized clinical trial that tests the effects of daily use of xylitol lozenges versus placebo lozenges on the prevention of adult caries. The trial has randomized 691 participants (ages 21-80) to the two arms. The primary outcome is the increment of cavitated lesions.Discussion: This trial should help resolve the overall issue of the effectiveness of xylitol in preventing caries by contributing evidence with a low risk of bias. Just as importantly, the trial will provide much-needed information about the effectiveness of a promising caries prevention agent in adults. An effective xylitol-based caries prevention intervention would represent an easily disseminated method to extend caries prevention to individuals not receiving caries preventive treatment in the dental office.Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.Gov NCT00393055. © 2010 Bader et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.