Weâ€™ve known for decades that dental disease (cavities, gum problems) is contagious. Cavities and gum problems are caused by bacteria that are transmitted from person to person. When children are born theyâ€™re sterile â€“ no bacteria, but right away they pick up bacteria for their skin, mouth, intestines.
In a recent article in Pediatric Dentistry (Volume 32, Number 3, May / June 2010 , pp. 205-211(7), published by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) researchers concluded that â€œmothers are an important source of infection [with Streptococcus mutans â€“ the primary bacteria causing cavities in children] for the child at an early age.â€
What this means is that they dental health of the mother is more responsible for the risk for cavities in their children. Cavities need three things: a tooth, food and bacteria. What can be modified to prevent cavities is straight-forward: a healthy diet, effectively cleaning teeth (brushing and flossing), sealants, and fluoridated water and toothpaste. In addition, moms can work towards a very healthy mouth for their own benefit, but also for their children. Children will further pick up on what their parents do (or don’t do), and will model their behavior after them: if parents brush and floss regularly andÂ go to scheduled dental checkups this will not be lost on what the kids perceive about the importance of dental health.