Are Cavities Really Contagious?

Surprisingly, yes.  The #1 chronic childhood disease – dental caries – is actually an infectious disease. Moreover, since babies spend a whopping majority of their time with their mothers, it’s likely that they “catch” tooth decay from them.


In fact, a study conducted by the University of Queensland’s School of Dentistry in Australia found cavity-causing bacteria in 30% of 3-month old babies’ mouths and 80% of 24-month-old babies’ mouths.

Tooth decay is caused by cavity-causing bacteria and acid from the food we eat.  This same bacteria can easily find a new home in your baby’s mouth if the opportunity arises.  To keep your baby’s mouth clean, it’s vital to start with your own.  Make sure you regularly visit the dentist and schedule your bi-annual cleanings.

To further protect your baby from childhood dental caries, avoid these situations that allow bacteria to pass from mom to baby:

  • Testing out your baby’s food to make sure the temperature is right. While your intentions are good, and you might save your baby from burning their mouth, you’re passing on the bacteria from your own mouth to theirs.
  • Rinsing a dropped pacifier in your own mouth. Doesn’t it seem like the pacifier ends up everywhere but in your baby’s mouth? Sometimes, it’s not so easy to get to a sink to wash it off. But don’t go for the quick fix just yet. Rinsing it off in your own mouth might get rid of the dirt from the ground, but it’ll also pass along the bacteria from your mouth.
  • Sharing utensils.  When your baby is old enough to start chewing on solid foods, it’s easy to resort to the “one bite for me, one bite for you” method.  It seems like such a hassle to switch spoons every other bite (and the last thing you need as a busy mom is another hassle), but to save your baby’s teeth, it’s important to do so.
  • Sharing drinks. Children are constantly asking for whatever you have at that moment, and your water bottle is no exception. It’s easy to hand it over and let them take a swig, but they’ll likely also get a taste of the bacteria from your mouth.

Above all, keep your mouth as healthy as possible to reduce any risks.  Make oral health care a family affair to keep everyone healthy and happy.



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