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Are Cavities Contagious?

You might be surprised by the answer to that question! Most of us know for a fact that cavities are the result of sugar build-up in our mouths and a lack of good oral hygiene habits. While these factors do, indeed, commonly contribute to the formation of cavities, one surprising reason for their appearance is that they can be contagious. Our pediatric dentist from Katy, TX, wanted to explain how cavities come to be and what we can do to avoid them.

In a way, cavities are “contagious” because the bacteria called causing them, Streptococcus Mutans, can jump from one person to another through saliva. This type of bacteria consumes the sugar left in the mouth after eating or drinking something and turns it into an acid that slowly damages the teeth’ hard enamel.

When you don’t clean your teeth well, you create the conditions for plaque build-up. 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 dangerous combination of factors can result in extreme tooth decay and, eventually, cavities!

While genetics play a part in how strong and healthy our teeth are, the bacteria passed from one person to another will undoubtedly erode your teeth’ outer layers and eventually lead to severe cavities. Be careful about these most common causes of cavities.

Are cavities contagious in adults?

Sure thing. We will go into more detail on what you should do to avoid cavities in your teeth. Still, you should know that if the harmful bacteria can pass from one person to another, it is of great importance that you and your significant other have good oral hygiene habits.

Adults are also in danger of developing cavities. Whether on their own or after getting their mouths contaminated by bacteria like Streptococcus Mutans.  In the case of families with children, well, it is also essential to limit habits that may contribute to the spread of harmful bacteria between family members.

How to prevent cavities?

Children usually don’t pay close attention to these matters. Adults have to take the lead to help avoid serious problems with children’s dental health. So what’s a parent to do? Here are some easy ways to keep your children from getting the cavity-causing bacteria:

Avoid sharing utensils.

Families share a lot of things in the house. Bathrooms, clothes, food, you name it! But maybe it’s time to stop or limit that habit, especially when it comes to your eating utensils. Consider that if you wouldn’t share a toothbrush with your child, you should not share a fork either. These items could carry bacteria from your mouth, and they can spread the harmful agents to other members of our family.

Kids may get a craving, but next time you decide to share a bite of your mac n’ cheese with your little ones, tell them to grab their fork to avoid accidentally spreading harmful bacteria from your mouth to theirs.

Clean pacifiers in the sink.

If your child has left some banana remains or milk on their pacifier from a previous 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 bacteria, but you might also get sick from wherever your child dropped their binky earlier, too!

Keep a clean mouth to prevent contagious cavities.

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.

Keep in mind that children learn mostly by following your example, so be mindful of your dental hygiene routine. Take time during the morning or before bedtime to join your kids in brushing carefully and showing them how to floss.

Watch what you eat and drink.

We have already discussed how to avoid passing bacteria from one person to another, but you should also consider the importance of prevention beyond your dental hygiene routine. Avoid sugary drinks like sodas, and if you ever had teeth removed and now have gaps between your teeth, avoid eating fibrous foods too often.

The harmful bacteria will favor these environments with lots of food remains to grow and multiply, so don’t give it a chance. Avoid unhealthy foods and drinks, and strengthen your dental care routine.

Need more help?

There is a lot everyone can do on their own to avoid the formation of cavities or spreading the bacteria that cause them. Still, some situations will benefit from professional help. Cleaning plaque and tartar professionally ensure that your teeth stay safe from harmful bacteria, and resources like fluoride treatments make your teeth stronger and more resilient.

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.