A Mother’s Kiss Can Spread Cavities
Did you know that sharing utensils with your baby or kissing them on the mouth can give them cavities? It can! The bacteria in an adult’s mouth that can result in cavities can transfer to a child via saliva from utensils or a simple kiss, resulting in a greater chance of the child getting cavities. This goes for any adults who come into close contact with a child. Most parents are completely unaware of this fact, and often use the same spoon, or suck on a paci to “clean it off” if it’s been dropped. It’s important to realize that tooth decay is essentially a bacterial infection that can be easily spread from person to person, including parents to children.
Studies about the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mom to baby have been around for three decades. The primary bacteria that appears to cause the problem is Streptococcus mutans, which can pass from person to person through the transfer of saliva, such as sharing utensils, blowing on food, and yes, even kissing your baby on the mouth.
According to a 2008 study in Pediatric Dentistry, “strong evidence demonstrated that mothers are a primary source of MS [mutans streptococci] colonization of their children; a few investigations showed other potential sources … notably fathers.”
The window of infectivity is greatest during infancy, especially when teeth are erupting and are most vulnerable to bacteria. And not all parents carry active decay in their mouth that can be transferred. However, most do. It’s important to understand that baby teeth, with their soft enamel, are even more prone to decay than adult teeth, and to therefore mitigate the opportunity for bacteria to spread to the child whenever possible.
Worse, although baby teeth are most susceptible to cavities, the damage doesn’t stop there. If the bacteria are allowed to thrive, they will colonize and stick around for years, attacking the permanent teeth when they come in.
Interestingly, there are preventative measures that appear to help. A January 2010 study in the Journal of Dental Research found that the children of moms who chewed Xylitol gum (starting in the sixth month of pregnancy) “were significantly less likely to show MS colonization.”
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children be seen for their first dental exam in their first year, ideally at the time of first tooth eruption. This can help prevent potential problems before they even begin. Dr. Kotre and her staff welcome children from infancy through the teenage years, and are happy to answer any questions you may have about children’s dental health. Give us a call at our Ann Arbor dental office at 734-677-2156 for more information or to schedule an appointment for your child.