While many parents are diligent about washing hands to avoid cold and flu germs, they may surprised to know that tooth decay is also contagious. Cavities are caused by a bacteria known as mutans streptococcus. This bacteria feeds on sugars in the mouth and creates an acid. The acid is what eats away the enamel layer of your teeth. Eventually, the bacteria develops a buildup of plaque along your tooth surfaces and gum line, which contains even more harmful acids. Enamel can some times repair itself with the help of minerals from saliva and fluoride. However, if the decay process continues, the enamel can be weakened and destroyed enough to form a cavity. Unfortunately, cavity-causing bacteria can be passed from person to person. Since tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood illness, here are some practical ways to keep your family cavity-free.
Don’t Share Utensils
Making sure your child’s fork and spoon are not used by others can protect both their smile and their overall health. In many cases, the bacteria is passed from parent to child. This can even apply to babies who do not yet have teeth. Avoid washing off your child’s pacifier with your own mouth and transferring it back into your baby’s mouth.
Pay Attention To Your Toothbrush
Not only should each member of your family have their own toothbrush, but you need to also make sure they are changed out periodically. The American Dental Association recommends throwing away your old toothbrush every 3-4 months or when the bristles have frayed. You may also want to pay attention to how close your toothbrush is to other toothbrushes when you store it. Bacteria from your mouth is transferred to your toothbrush after each brushing session so try not to let it touch another person’s toothbrush in between time.
Keep Your Mouth Clean
It is nearly impossible to practice perfect hygiene at all times. However, if you teach your child to diligently brush and floss on a daily basis, you are setting up a good fight for the cavity causing bacteria that may threaten their smile. Your child should be brushing for a full two minutes, twice a day. Flossing should be done at least once a day. If your child cannot tie his or her shoe yet, make sure to do the flossing for them. Practicing good oral hygiene as a parent can just as contagious for your child, but in a positive way!