Vertical Bacterial Transmission


Most parents think they are being only helpful by trying their children’s food before serving it to them.  We want to make sure the temperature is just right and everything tastes great.  Sometimes we give in and let them have a taste of what we ourselves are eating or drinking.  Lastly, who can resist kissing those little guys as much as possible?  There’s only one problem with all of that love and protection…did you know that all the bacteria in parents’ mouths can be transferred to their children via their saliva?

The type of bacteria most commonly transferred from parent to child is called Streptococcus Mutans.  According to a 2008 study in Pediatric Dentistry, “strong evidence demonstrated that mothers are a primary source of MS [mutans streptococci] colonization of their children; a few investigations showed other potential sources … notably fathers.”

Fortunately, there are things we can do as parents to try to prevent this spread of bacteria.  The most straightforward, but impractical option would be to avoid the transfer of saliva.  For most parents, however, the thought of not kissing our children or sharing silverware and food with our kids seems pretty unlikely.  More realistically, parents can try chewing Trident gum, with xylitol.  Research has shown that if mothers begin chewing this starting at the 6th month of pregnancy, they greatly reduce their bacterial count.  When this value is lower, the chance of spreading the bacterial load to their children and future is also decreased.  Also, routine teeth cleanings are recommended reduce the parents’ bacterial count.

For more information on this fascinating research, check out the following article: