Tooth decay is contagious!

We don’t think of tooth decay as being a disease or illness like, say, Chickenpox but they are considered to be contagious. Streptococcus Mutans is a strain of bacteria involved in the process of tooth decay. Researchers believe that this bacteria can be passed from you to your baby through saliva by sharing spoons, testing foods before feeding them to your baby, and cleaning off a pacifier in your mouth instead of with water. These germs can start the process that causes cavities even before your baby’s primary teeth emerge, so it’s important to avoid sharing saliva with your baby from the start.

In addition, if a baby tooth has an untreated cavity or infection, it is able to spread to the adjacent teeth and cause unnecessary damage.

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What is a cavity?

A cavity is a hole in a tooth that forms because of untreated tooth decay. A cavity can affect the hard tissues (enamel, dentin and cementum) and soft tissue (pulp) of a tooth. Cavities start off small, but gradually grow if left untreated. Since tooth decay does not always cause pain, cavity progression can often go unnoticed.

How does a cavity form?

When a sticky film of bacteria, called plaque, builds up on your teeth, tooth decay can result. Plaque bacteria release acids that destroy tooth enamel, and consuming acidic and sugary foods exacerbates this process. When decay goes untreated and this destructive process is allowed to repeat itself, a cavity can form.

Why is it so important to fix baby teeth?

Keeping baby teeth healthy is important. The front 4 baby teeth generally last until 6-7 years of age, while the back teeth (cuspids and molars) aren’t replaced until age 10-13. Neglected cavities in baby teeth can cause pain and infection such as an abscess. Infected teeth may also cause defects to the developing adult teeth lying directly underneath. Baby teeth are important for 5 main reasons:

  • Allow chewing and eating for proper nutrition, growth and development.
  • Hold the space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position.
  • Stimulating normal development of the jaw bones and muscles.
  • Proper speech development
  • Healthy smiles add to an overall attractive appearance which encourages a positive self esteem and good self image.

How to Prevent Cavities in Children and Babies

  • Don’t clean off a babys pacifier or bottle nipple with your own mouth or saliva
  • Don’t share cups, eating utensils or food
  • Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. This will help prevent a serious form of decay among young children commonly referred to as early childhood caries or “baby bottle tooth decay.” This condition is caused by frequent and long exposure of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugars (such as milk including breast milk, formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks). The flow of saliva decreases during sleep. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugar and produce acids that attack the teeth causing cavities
  • Oral hygiene is important


INFANTS: After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby’s gum tissue to clear away harmful bacteria.


BABY’S FIRST TOOTH: When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush or a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. At this stage, toothpaste isn’t necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing and do so at least twice per day.


BRUSHING WITH TOOTHPASTE: Over 18 months of age, use a fluoride toothpaste – low fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children aged 18 months to six years of age, and standard fluoride toothpaste is recommended for people aged six years and older. Use a smear of Fluoride containing toothpaste in children who cannot spit, and a pea-sized amount in children who can spit, on a soft bristled toothbrush to softly clean their gums, teeth, and tongue.

  • It’s recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption – usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems. Specialist Kids Dentist will look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one’s teeth.
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But it's not just about the teeth!

Early Childhood Caries may also be associated with:

  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Malnutrition including low vitamin D, low calcium, and albumin concentrations and elevated PTH levels
  • Disordered eating
  • Extremes of Failure to thrive and obesity

How to Prevent Cavities in Adulthood

  • Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss once daily. Flossing should begin when any 2 teeth touch
  • Eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet, and limit sugary foods and frequent snacking
  • Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and exams
  • Check with your dentist about supplemental fluoride and dental sealants