Did you know that cavities are contagious? Cavities are actually caused by bacteria, just like strep throat and many other illnesses. But while strep throat can be treated with antibiotics, there’s no cure for the bacteria that causes cavities. Because of that we focus on keeping the cavity-causing bacteria levels as low as possible. Recommendations you hear from your dentist such as daily brushing and flossing, using fluoride toothpaste, and quick treatment of cavities all help keep the bacteria in check.
So when and how do children initially “catch” these bacteria? Studies show that children often catch these bacteria from their primary caregiver: parent, grandparent, nanny, etc. Also, the earlier a child catches the bacteria the more likely they are to get cavities! What can you do to help your child avoid your bacteria? Everyone catches the bacteria eventually but you can help delay the point at which your child catches the bacteria – and lower their cavity risk. While no parent is going to stop kissing their baby, here are a few good habits that will help you avoid spreading germs!
- Take care of YOUR oral health
Taking care of your new baby can be time consuming, to say the least. Often, parents become so focused on caring for their child they forget to take care of themselves. With their new routine, new parents sometimes lose track of their brushing and flossing – leading to cavities. The more cavities one has, the more cavity-causing bacteria will exist in the mouth and the more likely they are to spread to your child. Don’t forget to brush and floss at least two minutes, two times a day. And be sure to get checked for cavities at your dentist every six months and fix any cavities ASAP!
- If something of your child’s falls to the floor, avoid cleaning it with saliva
Babies place things in their mouth to explore the world around them. If a pacifier, or anything else falls on the floor – don’t use your saliva to clean it. While your saliva may look clean, it’s actually filled with the bacteria from your mouth. We forget that while we may not feel sick, we still have bacteria we want to avoid passing along. A new way to think about sharing saliva: if you wouldn’t do it when you are sick, try and avoid it always!
- Get everyone their own toothbrushes
The bristles of a toothbrush are designed to get into the crevices of the teeth in which bacteria hide. Don’t let your child play with your toothbrush and don’t share brushes. Many small, soft brushes are available in kid-friendly colors – make sure your child has a toothbrush that is only used for them, and replace it every three months!
- Be mindful of germs during mealtimes
Some parents taste their children’s food to check temperature or flavor, others pre-chew their children’s food for them. Sharing food or even just silverware can allow for cavity-causing bacteria to be shared from parent to child. Once you’ve put silverware in your mouth, keep it out of your child’s food. Don’t double dip! Better yet, get your child their own spoons, forks, plates and cups in fun colors to help keep their food – and germs – separate!
- Switch to Xylitol gum
We’ve blogged about the benefits of xylitol before! Xylitol (pronounced Zy-Leh-Tol) is a naturally derived sugar substitute that can actually have an antibacterial effect. Studies show that when new mothers chewed sugar-free gum with xylitol multiple times a day, their children developed less cavities. Chewing gum after meals also helps increase saliva flow, which will help clean teeth and avoid cavities. If you chew gum, definitely try this one!
At Smiles4Kids we care about your kids’ oral health from the day they are born and are committed to providing you with all the information you need to make healthy choices for their smiles! We’re here anytime for questions and look forward to seeing you at your next appointment ☺