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Are Cavities Contagious?

Woman in dental office looking unhappyWe have many patients with great oral hygiene habits who still end up with dental cavities. This is often surprising to their parents, because they care so diligently for their child’s teeth. However, even the best dental care can fail if you’re sharing the bacteria that cause tooth decay and dental cavities.

Dental cavities are caused by bacteria called mutans streptococcus. These bacteria feed on leftover food debris and sugar on the teeth, creating harmful acids and dental plaque. If plaque is allowed to build up, it can cause cavities and decay.

Unfortunately, around 80% of dental cavities are found in the teeth of around 25-30% of children. This evidence supports the idea that some people just have more of these bacteria or are somehow passing the problem along.

Stop Sharing Harmful Bacteria

If you think your family may be spreading dental bacteria around, there are ways you can stop it from happening:

  • Don’t share toothbrushes – This one sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many kids in a family share a toothbrush. Make sure each member of the family has his or her own toothbrush and replace the brushes every 4-6 months. Additionally, don’t forget to thoroughly rinse your toothbrush under hot water to rinse away the bacteria.
  • Don’t share oral pacifiers – If you have babies or toddlers in the house, or if your children spend time around other kids their age, they may be swapping pacifiers. Make sure pacifiers aren’t being traded and if one falls on the floor, be sure to wash it with warm, soapy water.
  • Don’t share eating utensils – It’s very common to share bites of food with your children using the same utensils. Many people do it without giving it a second thought. However, we suggest that you keep utensils separated to avoid sharing bacteria.

For additional tips on keeping your child’s mouth cavity-free, or to make an appointment with Dr. Wilson, please contact Great Outdoors Pediatric Dentistry. Our child’s dentist is located here in Dover, NH.

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