Parents should be aware that bacteria that cause dental decay can be transmitted from adult to child by sharing eating utensils, or by the parent sucking on a baby’s pacifier to clean it. A study recently published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, about the immunological benefits of adult saliva does not provide the full picture that adult saliva may also contain bacteria that causes decay, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Licking a pacifier, as promoted in the study, can transfer the cavity-causing bacteria from the parent to baby increasing the possibility of tooth decay as they grow.
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“A child’s teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they begin to erupt,” said Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Maine and a pediatric dental spokesperson for the ADA. “Cavity-causing bacteria, especially Streptococcus mutans, can be transferred from adult saliva to children, increasing their risk of getting cavities.”
Dr. Shenkin points to other steps that parents can take to help children develop a healthy immune system. “Breast milk is widely acknowledged as a good immunity-builder as well as the most complete form of nutrition for infants. This is something on which both the ADA and the AAP agree,” he said.
The ADA recommends that parents protect the dental health of young children by promoting a healthy diet, monitoring their intake of food and drink, brushing their teeth or wiping gums after mealtimes and by having infants finish their bedtime or naptime bottle before going to bed. The ADA recommends that children receive their first dental visit within six months of eruption of the first tooth and no later than 12 months of age. For more information, visit the ADA’s consumer website www.MouthHealthy.org.