A mom kisses her baby on almost every inch of soft skin: cheeks, toes, tummy, nose, forehead and lips. What you may not know is those sweet kisses to the lips risk baby’s dental health and increase their chances for cavities!
Studies about the spread of cavity-causing bacteria from mom to baby have been published for over 30 years. Sharing utensils, food, drinks, blowing on food, even wiping off baby’s mouth with a saliva covered finger spread the cavity-causing bacteria from mother to baby. The bacteria responsible for the damaging tooth decay is Streptococcus mutans (MS).
MS can be found in the mouths of some infants in the first few months of life, though they are most vulnerable during the time of tooth eruption. Kissing a child on the lips is not the only risk factor. Oral hygiene, genetics, nighttime nursing, exposure to sugar, sippy cups filled with milk or juice all contribute to the damage.
They are just baby teeth- is it really a big deal? YES! Tooth decay will not just impact baby teeth; if the bacteria are allowed to thrive it will also attack the permanent teeth when they come in.
Luckily, steps can be taken starting with the mothers and mother’s-to-be oral hygiene including routine visits to the dentist- most importantly during the second and third trimester. Xylitol gum has also been tested as an alternative approach to reducing maternal MS infection and transmission to baby.
Preventative measures are key since the transfer of saliva between parent and child is almost unavoidable! In addition to mom maintaining good dental hygiene, dentists also recommend “wiping out” the bacteria in baby’s mouth before it’s established. Taking a clean, wet cloth and wiping the tongue, teeth and cheeks from infancy on is a best practice in preparing for good long-term dental health.
Important: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents have their child evaluated by a dentist when the first tooth erupts, or no later than their first birthday.
Here are 5 steps that limit the sharing of bacteria and bacterial growth:
- Practice good dental care. Brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, routine professional cleanings and dental visits are key.
- Beginning during pregnancy (especially, if tooth decay active), chew Xylitol gum at least three times per day. Look for products with xylitol as the first ingredient. Studies suggest that you need 6-10 grams of xylitol per day to be effective.
- Minimize saliva contact from kissing on the lips, sharing cups, utensils and food and cleaning pacifiers by mouth.
- Practice from birth keeping infant’s mouth clean even if teeth haven’t erupted yet. Keep the mouth clean by rubbing a wet washcloth or finger brush against the gums.
- Take preventative care of your child’s teeth and gums by routinely brushing and flossing, limiting sugar-filled foods and sweetened beverages, visits to the dentist for regular cleanings and teaching about good oral health.
At My Plantation Dentist we are happy to discuss preventative steps in spread of bacteria and make your dental visit as safe and comfortable as possible. Please call us at 954-584-1030.