The dangers of bacteria passing from parent to child
A kiss, sharing utensils and food with your baby….these are all common practices for parents. As harmless as these activities may seem, many parents are unaware the harm they could cause to their children’s dental health by passing harmful bacteria to them.
An adult’s mouth typically has between 500 and 1,000 different types of bacteria. Even those practicing impeccable dental hygiene may contain up to 1,000 and 100,000 different bacteria on the surface of each tooth.
So what’s the bacteria which could cause harm to your child? Streptococcus mutans.
Streptococcus mutans are gram-positive bacteria that reside in the human mouth and can be passed from person to person through the transfer of saliva. It’s important to note that parents, relatives or those who are consistently around your child with active tooth decay can spread the streptococcus mutans bacteria.
Pediatric dental disease, also referred to as childhood tooth decay, is the #1 chronic childhood illness.
Tooth decay is a bacterial infection that’s able to spread one from person to another during the window of ‘infectivity,’ which is during infancy.
Think of it as if you had a cold and were kissing a relative, that person would also get the cold virus. The same concept applies with streptococcus mutans.
However, the transmission of bacteria-laden saliva is just one piece of the puzzle as tooth decay is genetics, oral hygiene, and feeding practices, like allowing your child to constantly suck on a sippy cup full of sugar-laden liquid (juice) also contributes to tooth decay.
Children are at a much higher risk for tooth decay and cavities, especially during their first two years, as their immune system has yet not fully developed and isn’t capable of fending off harmful bacteria.
It becomes dangerous when bacteria colonize in your child’s mouth as tooth decay and cavities are more likely to develop in their permanent teeth.
So what can you do to prevent the spread of streptococcus mutans?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends parents take their children to the dentist as early as when the first tooth erupts, or no later than their first birthday.
And as hard as it is, try to eliminate saliva-transferring behaviors such as sharing utensils, blowing on your baby’s food and pre-chewing baby’s food.
While completely eliminating saliva transfer between parent and child is almost unheard of, as parents you can invest more time maintaining your oral health, which in turn is a preventative measure for both you and your child.
Prevention is key in dentistry and at My Plantation Dentist we’re here to provide you with sufficient information to make educated decisions about you and your family’s oral health care.
Feel free to contact Dr. Finkelstein at 954-584-1030 if you have any questions about tooth decay.