Thursday, November 21, 2013

Contagious Cavities?

By Dr. Scott Thompson, DDS, Winning With Smiles

Most people recognize that cavity problems seem to run in families. Most people also shrug and say "I have soft teeth, it runs in the family," as if they cannot do anything about it. That is wrong. Research has never demonstrated soft teeth. Research has definitely demonstrated the bacteria that cause cavities are contagious and we usually get ours from our caretakers when we are infants and first growing teeth.
If a family has aggressive cavity causing bacteria, they are typically traded to the infant at those cuddly slobbery spoon sharing times. But, please do not stop being cuddling nurturing parents. There is another way! The contagious disease is dose dependent. Research has shown that cleaning up mom and dad's oral health before baby is born, or at least before infant teeth show up, is an excellent way to reduce bacterial count and improve outcomes for baby. By the way, this includes improving odds for full-term pregnancy.
A good way to start would be a dental checkup. However, by "cleaning up oral health" I don't mean necessarily getting those expensive cavities filled, though that obviously helps too. Immediate and inexpensive, or even free things people can do are:
1. Become a truly effective tooth brusher. Use disclosing tools (tablets, solutions, or kitchen food color) to show you the bacteria. Then teach yourself how to thoroughly clean your teeth. Check yourself every couple weeks until you are confident you have figured it out. Most people find they can thoroughly clean their teeth in about half the time they used to.
2. Become a flosser. Between teeth is a place the toothbrush cannot reach. Getting the bacteria out each day will reduce the cavity causing bacteria significantly over time and improve the odds for your baby.
3. If you are a gum chewer or mint popper, choose gum and mints with Xylitol as the first ingredient and preferably the only sweetener. Xylitol inhibits the acid producing capacity of cavity causing bacteria. That helps you. By doing this it also reduces survival of these bacteria, leading to fewer of these type bacteria in your saliva. That helps your baby!
4. Stop sipping sodas and sweetened beverages between meals. Even the diet drinks which don't have sugar to feed bacteria do have high acid levels and cavity causing bacteria thrive in an acid environment.
5. Don't rinse the toothpaste off after you brush. Just spit. Giving the fluoride in that residual toothpaste taste more time will make stronger enamel faster. If you have unfilled cavities it will also be more effective in those holes resisting the growth of the cavities.
Caretakers with clean mouths and good oral health practices pass on fewer detrimental bacteria to their babies. If you are not taking care of your baby during the day, who is? Has your child's caretaker had a good dental checkup lately? What are your child's caretaker’s oral health habits?
Good oral health for your baby begins long before your baby has teeth. When your baby does have teeth, be sure to create a good relationship with a dental professional before cavities have a chance to begin. The first tooth deserves a dental home.

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