By: Winnie Yu
Yes, cavities are actually an infectious and transmittable disease!
Most often, and especially in children, cavities are caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus mutans, says Mark Reynolds, dentist and chairman of the Department of Periodontics at the University of Maryland. The bacteria can spread from one mouth to another, usually through kissing or sharing of food.
Research has shown that infection occurs in 30 percent of 3-month-old babies who don’t even have teeth yet, and as many as 80 percent of 2-year-olds who have their primary teeth. In general, moms who harbor more Streptococci mutans are more likely to have infants whose mouths are infected with the cavity-causing bacteria. The same transmission can occur between adults too.
Chewing gum that contains xylitol and maintaining good oral health and hygiene habits (regular brushing and flossing) throughout life can help reduce the risk of spreading the bacteria.
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is Completely You’s mom blogger. She has two daughters (Samantha, 14, and Annie, 12) and is the author of seven books, including New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding and What to Eat for What Ails You. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Woman’s Day, AARP Bulletin, Prevention and WebMD.com.