A study finds parents in Nebraska can accidentally pass harmful bacteria from their mouths to their children, putting kids at a higher risk of getting cavities and developing other problems.
Dentist Dr. Ed Schooley says moms and dads may be infecting their children through very innocent actions.
“The bacteria typically are passed with items that are contaminated with one’s saliva into a child’s mouth,” Dr. Schooley says. “This primarily takes place through natural parental behaviors as sharing utensils or using one’s mouth to clean a baby’s pacifier.”
He says a recent survey found fewer than a third of parents realize the risks involved with such simple behaviors.
“Most parents lack the knowledge of passing on bacteria like this and what it can lead to,” Schooley says. “Babies are born without any harmful bacteria in their mouths but once the bacteria are introduced, then they’re more prone to having cavities in their baby teeth and permanent teeth.”
The survey found 30% of parents say they sometimes or often share utensils with their children, while caregivers of children ages two and three are most likely to share utensils.
In addition to avoiding passing saliva on objects, he says good dental hygiene is another safeguard — for kids and parents.
“Brush the teeth once a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss once a day, at least,” Schooley says. “With the baby, take a warm washcloth and wipe it over the gums until they get teeth, and once they get teeth, you can start to use a soft toothbrush.”
The research shows moms, more often than dads or others, usually inadvertently infect their children.