Dental caries aka tooth decay or cavities, is an infectious disease. Just like colds, strep throat or flu, dental caries can spread from one person to another.
Cavities are caused by tooth-adherent specific bacteria, primarily mutans streptococci that feed on the sugar in your mouth, producing acid that eats away the enamel of the teeth. Mutans streptococci may be transferred from caregivers to child through salivary contact.
Parents are often shocked when dentists say that their young children have developed tooth decay even after religious oral care. Moms with cavities in particular, can transmit cavity-causing oral bacteria to their babies by sharing utensils or cleaning pacifiers by sticking them in their own mouths.
Dental caries is the single most common chronic disease in children, but it’s an entirely preventable one. Here are five practical ways to prevent transmitting cariogenic bacteria:
- Keep your child’s fingers out of anyone else’s mouth – including yours or your child’s siblings and playmates.
- Don’t share feeding cups and utensils.
- If your baby drops his or her pacifier, never “wash it off” in your own mouth. Clean it with water and soap, or bring an extra clean one with you.
- Never share toothbrushes.
- Make sure everyone in your family practices good oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing daily reduces the risk of tooth decay and lowers the chances of passing harmful oral bacteria to your young ones.
Take your child to a pediatric dentist no later than his or her first birthday. A pediatric dentist will perform a caries risk assessment on your child and provide you with guidelines on prevention of oral diseases.