As a mom, you pass a lot onto your children. Your looks. Your love for food. But did you know you can actually pass bacteria from your mouth to your child’s? Much like a cold, the bacteria in your mouth are contagious.
It happens when you transfer your saliva into your child’s mouth. Typically, this takes place through natural, maternal behaviors, such as sharing utensils, blowing on food to cool it or even kissing your little one. Research shows that moms – rather than dads – usually infect their children.
Babies are actually born without any harmful bacteria in their mouth. But once bacteria colonize in the mouth, your child will be more prone to cavities in baby and permanent teeth. If you have a history of poor oral health with frequent cavities, you’re particularly likely to pass the germs along.
So what’s a mom to do?
- Make sure to keep your own mouth healthy. It’s never too late to begin good oral health habits. Maintain a good diet, brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once a day and visit the dentist regularly.
- Try to cut back on saliva-transferring behaviors, such as sharing utensils and toothbrushes, blowing on your baby’s food, pre-chewing your baby’s food and cleaning off your baby’s pacifier with your own mouth.
- Moms and those expecting should chew Xylitol gum. A recent study found that children of moms who chewed Xylitol gum (starting in the sixth month of pregnancy) were significantly less likely to show bacteria colonization.
The bottom line? Take care of your mouth and pass along good oral health habits to your children – not cavities.