Oral Bacteria: Sharing or Spreading?

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Becky Larson RDH

            The sharing or spreading of oral bacteria happens very frequently and most people are unaware they are even doing it.  Our mouths are filled with millions of bacteria. When you share food, cups, utensils, toothbrushes, or have contact with someone else’s saliva these bacteria can be transferred from person to person. This can be particularly harmful when sharing with children.

Cavities (caries) are the result of a bacterial infection and young children can “catch” the harmful bacteria that cause cavities. While everybody has bacteria in their mouth, it’s important to try to keep these harmful bacteria from our children’s mouths during their first year or two. Babies are actually born without any harmful bacteria in their mouth.  Once the harmful caries bacteria are introduced, the child may experience tooth decay.

So what does this mean?  It means DON’T SHARE BACTERIA.  I’ve seen many parents (including my own husband) suck their child’s pacifier clean.  This can be both good and bad.  The parent has just introduced new bacteria into their child’s mouth.  Some bacteria are harmless and can actually help prevent allergic reactions.  However, if the parent has any caries bacteria, they have now given those bacteria to their child.  Sharing saliva can also spread the bacteria that cause inflammatory reactions and periodontal disease in adults.

Why does it matter? Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma.  When left untreated, the disease can cause developmental problems.  Tooth decay can lead to mouth pain, which makes it more difficult for a child to eat healthy foods, speak correctly, and even concentrate in school.  Tooth decay can also damage permanent teeth when they erupt.  Periodontal disease cannot currently be cured.  If left untreated, the gums, bone and tissues that support the teeth can be destroyed.  This can result in the loss of teeth.

            Tips on how to prevent bacteria transmission and cavities:

*If your child sleeps with a bottle, fill it with water rather than milk or juice

*Clean baby gums with wet cloth several times per day before baby teeth erupt

*Once your child has erupted teeth, brush them at least twice per day (even if it’s only one tooth!)

*Take your child to the dentist by their 1st birthday or when the first tooth erupts

*Avoid putting anything in your child’s mouth that has been in your mouth

*Avoid kissing your child on the lips

*Avoid sharing food, utensils, cups, and toothbrushes

*Help your child floss their teeth once the teeth are contacting

*Change toothbrushes every 3 months

*Eat a balanced diet, limit sugar intake

*Brush your own teeth twice per day and floss once per day

Sources:

http://www.perio.org/node/224

http://oralhealthmatters.blogspot.com/2013/05/bacteria-in-mouth-are-not-harmless.html

http://brushinguplasalle.com/tag/oral-bacteria/

https://www.deltadental.com/Public/NewsMedia/NewsReleaseBadThingsHappen201108.jsp

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/35989527/ns/health-oral_health/t/moms-kiss-can-spread-cavities-baby/#.UpYHZ9F3uM8

http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm

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