Are Cavities Contagious?

Are Cavities Contagious? The answer might surprise you.

Often parents are shocked to learn that their children develop cavities at a very young age even after diligent oral care.  One of the reasons could be that cavities are actually “contagious”.  It might surprise you that the bacterial cause of tooth decay can be passed along from person to person.

Cavities, are caused by a bacteria known as mutans streptococcus.  This bacteria feeds on the sugar in your mouth and creates an acid that eats away the hard enamel on your teeth.  When it builds, it creates plaque that contains even more acid to eat away at your teeth.

Some individuals tend to have more cavity causing bacteria than others.  So, rather than so-called “soft-teeth” being passed along from parent to child (which isn’t entirely accurate), what’s actually being passed along is instead a mouth full of bacteria. Studies have shown that 80 percent of all cavities are found in the mouths of only 25 percent of children.

So how can you help stop the spread of cavities?  Here are four practical ways to stop the flow of bacteria in your family:

Avoid sharing eating utensils.

Anyone with children knows how common it is to share food with them from your own plate using your spoon or fork.  Likewise, parents also find themselves cleaning off their child’s spoon with their own mouth or sharing a meal using the same utensils.  Avoiding this habit can go a long way in stopping the flow of bacteria from your mouth to your child’s.

Clean pacifiers in the sink, not your mouth.

Most parents have done this:   Your child drops her pacifier on the ground and you quickly scoop it up and wash it off in your own mouth.  Sounds almost yucky reading it, right?  Having an extra clean one on hand or waiting until you can rinse it off under warm, soapy water is much more sanitary for your child…and you!

Don’t share toothbrushes.

Everyone in your family should have their own toothbrush and they should be changed frequently.  The American Dental Association recommends a new toothbrush every 3-4 months or even sooner as bristles become frayed.  Bacteria from your mouth are transferred to your toothbrush when you brush. You want to avoid passing those bacteria to other family members by not sharing your toothbrush.

Keep a clean mouth.

Inevitably, we don’t live in a sterile environment and even the most diligent among us can sometimes break the “rules”.  So one of the key actions you can take in helping your children not develop cavities is through regularly brushing and flossing yourself.  Not only will you help prevent the spread of bacteria, but you’ll be setting a good example of oral care that hopefully will be “contagious” as well!

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