Beware: Cavities Are Contagious - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/7/08

Beware: Cavities Are Contagious

Have you ever seen a baby drop a pacifier and a well-meaning mom or dad sticks it in their mouth for a quick cleaning and then puts it back into the infant's mouth?  The University of North Carolina says that a little dirt from the floor may be better than the germs floating around in mom or dad's mouth.

Researchers at UNC say that cavities could be contagious. The bugs in the mouth that turn sugar into enamel eating acid don't just start out in the mouth. The germ is actually transferred from one person to another. 

Dr. William Vann, D.D.S, a pediatric dentist at the University of North Carolina says, "We understand how children get the bacteria, they get them from the primary caretaker, most of the time the mom."  Dr. Vann adds, "You hear stories about, well, you shouldn't share utensils, you shouldn't taste your baby's food, and those things are true, but the reality is you can't break the chain of transmission."

The research shows that it is especially critical to protect children's teeth from the ages of 6 to 36 months.   Dr. Vann says that the best way parents and caregivers can help reduce the risk for their kids are to take care of their own mouths.   Good oral hygiene and regular trips to the dentist will keep the number of decay causing germs low so that fewer germs are passed on.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of children between the ages of 5 and 9 have had at least one cavity or filling. C.D.C. data also reveals, dental-related illnesses translate into more than 51 million missed school hours each year.

Some cavity fighting tips from the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry:

  • Brush your child's gums twice a day with a soft cloth or baby toothbrush. 
  • Use water even before the first tooth appears.
  • If you must put your child to sleep with a bottle, use nothing but water. Other beverages can damage teeth, leading to cavities.
  • Never dip a pacifier into honey or anything sweet before giving it to a baby.
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