small boy holding his mouth 6

Are Cavities Contagious?

You might be surprised by the answer! Most of us believe cavities are the result of sugar and lack of oral hygiene. While these things contribute to cavities, the true source is something that actually can be “contagious”. Today, our pediatric dentist explains how cavities come to be and what we can do to avoid them. 

In a way, cavities are “contagious” because they are caused by a bacteria called mutans streptococcus, which can be transmitted by saliva. The bacteria consume sugar that’s left in the mouth and turn it into acid that damages the hard enamel of the teeth. 

Plaque is a combination of sugar, food debris, bacteria, and acid. When children do not remove plaque by brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar. This can result in extreme tooth decay and eventually, cavities! 

While genetics do play a part in how strong our teeth are, the bacteria that are passed from parents to children are a much more likely cause of cavities. So what’s a parent to do? Here are four easy ways to keep your children from getting the cavity-causing bacteria: 

1. Avoid Sharing Utensils

Families share everything. Bathrooms, clothes, food, you name it! But maybe it’s time to stop that habit, especially with your eating utensils… You wouldn’t share a toothbrush with your child, so why would you share a fork? These items carry bacteria from our mouths and they can spread them to other members of our family. Next time you want to share a bite of your mac n’ cheese with your little ones, tell them to grab their own fork! 

2. Clean pacifiers in the sink, not your mouth.

If your child has left some banana or milk on their pacifier from a prior meal, you’ll want to clean that under the faucet with water and soap. Many parents get in the habit of cleaning their kid’s pacifier by sucking on it themselves, but this is a major no-no. Not only can you contaminate the pacifier with your own bacteria, but you might also get sick from wherever your child dropped their binky earlier, too! 

3. Keep a clean mouth.

Say as many cuss words as you want, but make sure to wash that mouth after! No, we may not live in the most sterile environment, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try to be clean! Show your child how to take good care of their teeth by brushing and flossing regularly. Not only will you reduce the risk of spreading bacteria, but you’ll also be a great role model for your kids. 

To learn more about cavities and oral care, talk to our pediatric dentist in Katy today! She’s a pro at explaining complicated topics like this to her younger patients. You can also book an appointment at Kids Healthy Teeth for a checkup and dental cleaning if your child does have cavities.