Moms' bad habit can pass cavities onto babies

April 22, 2010 6:52:33 AM PDT
Maia Tribble likes yogurt, and so does her mother. That's why her mother, Dr. Gena Tribble, tastes the toddler's food. It's something mothers do it every day. But we've learned parents may be giving their babies cavities!

"You can actually transfer those cavities from your mouth to your child's mouth," said Dr. Tribble, who's a researcher at UT Dental Branch.

Dr. Tribble says baby Maia isn't going to immediately get a cavity. However, Dr. Tribble says if parents share spoons, kisses, and saliva with their children it's possible, especially if you have a cavity.

And it's not just children who can catch cavities from their parents. Adults can spread bacteria to each other that causes periodontal disease and a host of other problems.

Experts say spouses often spread gingivitis bacteria, which causes periodontal disease.

Dr. Tribble has received a $1 million NIH grant to find out why the bacteria is so hard to kill. She says it needs to be killed because it not only causes tooth loss, but it's also linked to heart disease, preterm labor and complications for diabetics.

"They're really causing a chronic lifelong infection, and we need to find out better ways to treat that," Dr. Tribble said.

Dr. Sandford Fenton says cavity-causing bacteria and periodontal disease are easily spread by sharing toothbrushes and cups.

"If you share the same toothpaste tube-- the community tube in the bathroom-- it can easily spread the germs of bacteria from mouth to mouth," Fenton said.

Fenton recommends:
  1. Separate tubes of toothpaste for each family member
  2. Do not share anything
  3. Have frequent dental checkups especially if you're pregnant
  4. Brush when a baby gets the first tooth
  5. Chew gum with Xylitol after meals
  6. These dental scientists suggest you be careful who you kiss, or at least brush and floss well after those kisses.

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