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Are Cavities Contagious?

New research reveals that dental caries, also known as cavities or tooth decay, is actually an infectious disease.

Dental caries cause the demineralization and break down of the enamel, dentin and cementum within teeth. When food particles are left in the mouth, bacterial fermentation occurs producing an acid that eats away at your teeth.

The bacteria most responsible for tooth decay are Steptococcus mutans and Steptococcus sobrinus. These bacteria are passed easily from person to person.

Our teeth are constantly being demineralized by this bacterial fermentation and then re-mineralized by the surrounding saliva. When the production of saliva diminishes, such as due to medications or radiation therapies, the pH at the surface of the tooth drops and excessive demineralization occurs.

Children and Cavities

The most common chronic childhood disease today is tooth decay. As this research has shown, tooth decay is a transmittable disease and children appear to be the most susceptible.

“Particularly, the easiest way to catch a cavity is when a mother is feeding a child,” Dr. Irwin Smigel, creator of Supersmile, told AOL Health. The mother will taste the food to check the temperature and then continue feeding the child. “Immediately, that’s how kids get cavities,” he says.

Tooth decay can have a detrimental effect on a child’s quality of life, cause pain and the inability to chew food well, as well as embarrassment about discolored or damaged teeth and distraction from play and learning, according to Liliana Rozo, DDS, and Assistant Professor at University of Louisville School of Dentistry.

For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents become informed about teething and normal tooth development as well as proper oral hygiene habits and trauma prevention. Finding a regular pediatric dentist as soon as the first teeth appear is the best way to prevent and treat tooth decay.

How Cavities Spread

Research is finding that this bacteria is passed easily from adults to children when kissing, sharing utensils or any other activity that transmits saliva. Streptococcus mutans is not passed to each other as adults, so children, especially ages 6 to 36 months of age, are particularly susceptible.

According to a study conducted at the University of Queensland’s School of Dentistry in Australia, cavity-causing bacteria was discovered in the mouths of 30% of 3-month-olds, and more than 80% of 24-month-old children with primary teeth.

Encourage Dental Hygiene

Not getting regular dental care you could actually be causing your children’s cavities.

You can encourage your children to brush daily by setting a good example yourself. Making your own oral health a priority not only protects them from the spread of bacteria like Steptococcus mutans, but also help to instill the habit in your child. Regular dental care is important for parents as well as children.

Make an appointment with Dr. Hall today, especially if you haven’t been seen in the last 6 months.