Most parents want to give their kids the best possible start in life. Did you know that one way you can do this, is to keep your own mouth healthy? You might think, what does the health of my mouth have to do with my child’s health? When your mouth is unhealthy, whether from cavities or gum disease, it builds up high levels of “bad bacteria”. Both the amount and the kind of bacteria are entirely different when you have active infection and disease in your mouth.
The really interesting part about all this, is that you can pass on these “bad bacteria” to your children. Children don’t start out with a certain set of bacteria in their body. They slowly acquire them over time. For mouth bacteria, it is usually a result of a transfer from their parents. These bacteria get passed on through any transfer of saliva. This usually happens by sharing cups, silverware, or food. This transfer happens most often between the child and their primary caregiver. These bad bacteria increase your child’s risk of developing certain dental health problems. Cavities in particular, tend to develop much more easily in children whose parents also have active cavities.
So what can you do to give your child the best start?
- Chew xylitol gum during the last several months of pregnancy. This reduces the levels of cavity causing bacteria and you are less likely to pass them on to your child.
- Brush and floss regularly.
- Limit sugar intake. The bacteria who feed on sugars thrive in the presence of more sugar.
- If you do have active cavities, try to avoid any activities that share saliva. This includes sharing the same utensils, trying your child’s food beforehand, cleaning of pacifiers in your mouth, kissing on the mouth, etc.
- Additionally, if you have any active cavities or gum disease, get them taken care of by your dentist.