Are Cavities Contagious? | Indianapolis Pediatric Dentistry



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Your child can “catch” the flu and he or she can “catch” a respiratory virus. But can your child “catch” dental cavities? The answer is YES!

Infants’ mouths do not initially have cavity-causing bacteria (called mutans streptococcus). These bacteria are commonly transferred from person to person through saliva. This may happen as a parent shares a drink, or food off the same spoon, with their child or “cleans” a baby’s pacifier by putting it in their own mouth first. These processes can transfer cavity-causing bacteria to the child and make him or her at a higher risk for getting the dreaded dental cavity.

If you have been prone to dental cavities yourself, it is wise to not share utensils or drinks with your child. Being aware of this transfer could help prevent him or her from starting the life-long process of being a “cavity-prone” child or adult.

Of course, dental decay is a multi-factorial process. Oral hygiene (brushing and flossing daily), fluoride exposure (in drinking water and toothpaste/mouth rinses), diet, and the amount of cavity-causing bacteria all play a role in the cavity process. Some children are at a higher risk for developing cavities; these children may have a higher number of cavity-causing bacteria.

Because all children can get cavities, it is important to promote good oral health habits early. Here are some suggestions to help your child have a healthy mouth and a healthy smile.

  • Your child should see a dentist early and regularly. The American Dental Association (ADA), American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that your child see a dentist 6 months after his or her first tooth erupts or by his or her first birthday. It is important to establish a dental home for your child and to get those pearly whites checked out! The earlier your child becomes introduced to the dental office, the more comfortable he or she will be.
  • Brush your child’s teeth daily with fluoride toothpaste. In their most recent guidelines, the AAPD “Encourages the brushing of teeth with appropriate amounts of fluoride toothpaste (e.g., no more than a ‘smear’ or ‘rice-size’ amount for children less than three years of age; no more than a ‘pea-size’ amount for children aged three to six) twice daily for all children.”
  • Become diet-savvy and offer your child tooth friendly snacks! This includes avoiding “gummy” or “sticky” foods that get stuck in the grooves of the teeth, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages (like juice, soda, and sports drinks) which are known to cause cavities and weaken the enamel on the teeth. Offer your child fruit or cheese instead and be sure to encourage them to drink water throughout the day.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and your local pediatric dentist are great sources of information about how to help keep your child’s mouth healthy and cavity-free!



Written by: Dr. Kira Stockton, DDS and Dr. Erin Phillips, DDS from Indianapolis Pediatric Dentistry (