It was originally believed that only mothers and their children could swap cavity-causing bacteria, but new research has indicated otherwise. In fact, a recent research study showed that 72 percent of children participants harbored at least one strain of the bacteria Streptococcus mutans that causes cavities, that was not found in any other family member who lived in the same household. Instead, it was found that the bacteria were contracted from other non-related children. So, not only are your children vulnerable to catching colds, flus, and other illnesses from children they interact with in schools and daycare, they can spread and catch cavity-causing bacteria.
What is Streptococcus Mutans?
Streptococcus mutans is harmful oral bacteria that feed on sugars and carbohydrates left in the mouth from foods and beverages. As it metabolizes these “leftovers” it reproduces and secretes enamel-eroding acids which cause tooth decay. The acids, food debris, and bacteria mix with saliva to form bacterial plaque. We brush twice daily to remove this plaque and reduce our chances for tooth decay. However, more bacteria can be introduced into your child’s oral cavity via other children during any interaction involving saliva such as drinking from the same cup, sharing utensils, licking off the same lollipop or ice cream cone, etc.
What This Means
Although you can teach your children not to share drinks, food, or utensils with other children, there is not much you can probably do to prevent kids from swapping germs. This increases the importance, however, of teaching your children proper oral hygiene which includes brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and attending bi-annual dental checkup/cleaning appointments.