Your child might have your eyes, your hair, your lips—and, unfortunately, your bacteria. Oral bacteria called mutans streptococci are often passed from parent to child through saliva and can lead to cavities. Making sure that everyone in your family practices good dental hygiene—brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day—reduces the risk of cavities and therefore lowers the chances of passing cavity-causing bacteria to young ones.
Here are other ways to lower your child’s exposure to bacteria in other people’s saliva:
Don’t let your child place his or her fingers in anyone’s mouth. Children will usually put their fingers back into their own mouth, increasing the chance of transmitting the bacteria.
Don’t share utensils with infants.
Don’t share toothbrushes. Everyone in your family should have his or her own toothbrush.
Don’t taste your child’s food or drink before serving it.
Don’t wash off a pacifier with your saliva.
Introduce your child to dental care by making an appointment with a pediatric dentist when your child is around six months old.
Wipe your baby’s gums with a damp cloth after feeding to prevent the buildup of bacteria. Start using a toothbrush once teeth appear, and add fluoride toothpaste when your child reaches preschool-age.
“Dental Hygiene: How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth.” American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/children/parents/kidshealthy/healthy-choice/227.html. Accessed 2013.
“Preventing Infant Tooth Decay.” American Academy of Pediatrics. Dental Health Services Victoria. http://www.dhsv.org.au/dental-advice-for-babies-tooth-decay/#feeding. Accessed 2013.
"Pregnancy, Oral Health and Your Baby." Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center. March 6, 2013. http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-at-Any-Age/Adults/Oral-Health-and-Pregnancy/article/Pregnancy-Oral-Health-and-Your-Baby.cvsp#Dental_Caries. Accessed 2013.