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dental health

Passing Harmful Bacteria From Parent to Child

By Erin Shanahan, DMD, Maple Shade Dental Group

to Child By Erin Shanahan, DMD, Maple Shade Dental Group Erin Shanahan, DMD D id you

Erin Shanahan, DMD

D id you know that you could pass harmful bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s mouth, thereby increasing the child’s risk for cavities? If this surprises you, then you are

not alone. In fact, less than a third of American caregivers real- ize they can pass dental diseases to a baby. A recent survey of caregivers revealed this lack of knowledge about dental microbe transmission. This transmission is most likely to take place during the child’s first two and one-half years of life. Since many dentists do not see children until age three, they may not caution parents about reducing this risk. I have also been asked by young parents if there are any immunological benefits within saliva that could boost their child’s resistances to bacteria. They say “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” In this case there is no evidence to support that point of view. Sometimes they suggest that they have heard that breast-feeding can have immunological benefits. I would agree that breast milk is a good immunity builder; however, the bacteria in your saliva will cause more harm than good.

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Page 44 — Healthy Cells Magazine — Peoria — May 2014

Page 44 — Healthy Cells Magazine — Peoria — May 2014 Transferral of the bacteria that

Transferral of the bacteria that causes tooth decay (Strepto- coccus mutans) occurs when items contaminated with saliva go into the child’s mouth. The two most common behaviors that parents transfer saliva are 1) sharing eating utensils and 2) using their mouth to clean a baby’s pacifier. Although mothers play the primary role in bacterial transmission, fathers and day care cen- ters also play a role. hand-washing with antibacterial soap, using hand sanitizer, and education for new mothers and caregivers will reduce risky behaviors. Babies are born without these harmful bacteria in their mouths. But once the bacteria colonize the mouth, the child will be more prone to cavities in their primary and permanent teeth. If you as a parent have a history of poor oral health and frequent cavities, you’re more likely to pass these germs along. You should ask your dentist or pediatric physician to assess your risk. Have your den- tist treat existing tooth decay that you have in its earliest stages. Recognize and eliminate saliva-transferring behaviors. Start early in managing the oral health of your kids so that they are cavity free. Keep in mind that kids will do what you do. So be sure to show them that you are brushing your teeth and flossing every day. If you value your smile, your children will value theirs. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that par- ents protect the dental health of young children by promoting a healthy diet, monitoring their intake of food and drink, brushing their teeth or wiping gums after mealtimes and by having infants finish their bedtime or naptime bottle before going to bed. The ADA also recommends that children receive their first dental visit within six months of eruption of the first tooth and no later than 12 months of age. Preventing tooth decay needs to start before the teeth even erupt.

For gentle dental and orthodontic care for the entire family, call the Maple Shade Dental Group at 309-285-8376. Visit mapleshadecenter.com for more information.

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