By: Dr. Phoebe Tsang, DMD, PhD, Aug 28, 2014
  Question
Catch a cavity? | The Children's Oral Care Centre - Dr. Phoebe Tsang

Can my kids catch tooth decay like a cold?

Protect your children against cavity causing bacteria.

Contrary to many parents’ belief that their children get cavities because they were born with “weak teeth”, many children’s teeth are structurally sound. There seems to be a genetic link to dental decay because children with tooth decay often have an immediate family member who may suffer from tooth decay as well. The fact of the matter is, many people may not recognize that cavities can be spread to children from their parents, similar to a cold or the flu.

Small babies and children are not born with cavity causing-bacteria in their mouths. They can actually "catch" bacteria from their primary caregivers. According to recent research studies using advanced DNA technology, researchers can identify similar genetic characteristics of cavity-causing bacteria between immediate family members/primary caregivers and their children. This finding shows that parents or primary caregivers (grandma, grandpa or nanny) could be an important source of dental infection for children at an early age.

One of the main routes of transmission is sharing utensils with your child or tasting baby food before giving it to your child. Cavity causing bacteria in the caregivers’ mouths may be passed on to the children through saliva contact.

The following facts that can help protect children against tooth decay:

  1. Wash utensils, cups and other objects thoroughly before sharing them with children as caregivers can pass germs that cause cavities through saliva.
  2. Try to avoid cooling or tasting baby food in your mouth before giving it to your children.
  3. Keeping your teeth healthy and decreasing the number of cavities in your mouth can prevent the spread of cavity causing bacteria to your children.
  4. Children’s first dental visit should be around their first birthday as tooth decay can start as soon as a tooth appears.

Dr. Phoebe Tsang is a Fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada (F.R.C.D.) in Pediatric Dentistry and a licensed Certified Specialist in Pediatric Dentistry in BC.  The Royal College of Dentists of Canada is an organization which ensures high standards of specialization in the dental profession and recognizes properly trained dental specialists through comprehensive qualifying exams. Visit Dr. Tsang at the Children's Oral Care Centre in Abbotsford, BC. 

Outside of the office, Dr. Tsang is a clinical assistant professor of Faculty of Dentistry who is actively engaged in teaching dental students at the University of British Columbia and general practice residents at Vancouver General Hospital and British Columbia's Children's Hospital. 

Read Dr. Tsang's blog here