It’s winter. With flu and cold season upon us, we’re all thinking a little more about hand-washing, sneeze-covering, and doing what we can to avoid germs and stay healthy! We all know that we can give and catch germs that cause a runny nose– or worse– but did you know that you can also share germs that cause a cavity?

Know your cavity

As Dr. Sue’s patients probably know, cavities don’t just happen, they are caused by the activities of bacteria that live in our mouths. These bacteria– for instance, streptococcus mutans— eat the sugar from your meals and excrete harmful acid onto your dental enamel. While dental enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies, it’s still no match for the acid; the enamel breaks down, and you get a cavity.

When we encouraged our kids to share… this wasn’t what we meant!

The bacteria that cause cavities (and other, non-harmful bacteria) can be shared— by kissing, sharing utensils, drinking glasses, water bottles, and more. We all have bacteria living on and inside our bodies and it’s far from uncommon that these bacteria might mingle a little bit, but sharing oral bacteria that cause cavities has raised some alarm because there is one population particularly vulnerable: very young children.

Why is this? Very young children, like babies and toddlers, don’t have a full microbiome— that’s your own personal population of (trillions!) of bacteria– in fact, they’re still making it. When an older person inadvertently shares a spoon or fork, they may be sharing caries-causing bacteria as well! In addition to the intrusion of a cavity-causing microbe, toddler mouths may not have the resident flora set up yet to fight off the invader.

Be careful, but don’t wring your hands

Don’t worry if you’ve “tasted” your child’s food to encourage her to eat, or to see if her oatmeal was too hot– we’ve all done it! Experts encourage parents to be aware of bacteria sharing within reason; for instance, avoid “washing” a fallen pacifier with your own mouth before placing it back in your child’s, but certainly don’t refrain from kissing her!

Great oral care has many different variables

Being aware is important, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to pediatric dental care. Experts emphasize that the most important things that parents can do are to set healthy habits for their child, brush their child’s teeth twice daily, and visit the dentist every 6 months for good preventive care.

More tips on caring for your child’s teeth include:

  • Avoid snacking– this feeds bacteria too!
  • Eat fruit instead of drinking juice, and avoid soft drinks
  • If your child has a candy treat– show her how we brush right after!

Regular appointments are critical to maintaining oral health

For more information or to schedule your child’s next appointment, please give us a call or schedule your visit today! Being a parent is challenging already– Dr. Sue, your favorite dentist in Gladstone OR, is here to help get your child’s smile off to the right start!

Photo Credit: katie.thomas0214 via Compfight cc