Every parent wishes their kid is an amalgamation of good qualities of themselves. But, little do we know dental decay is one of the things we pass on to our little ones inadvertently.
How does it happen?
It happens by a process we call vertical transmission. Vertical transmission is the transmission of germs from caregiver to child. Although any caregiver may pass on the germs but the predominant route is usually from mother to child. The other routes can be father-child or helper-child.
A child is never born with decay. It occurs due to interaction between bacteria, teeth and fermentable carbohydrates. (To know more read our article- how cavities are formed). The bacteria for tooth are acquired after birth from the people around the child.
Since, mother is the predominant route through which germs are passed through the baby, the oral care of the mother is paramount. Hence, perinatal (before, during and after pregnancy) oral health care is very important.
What happens during pregnancy?
During pregnancy the mother goes through many temporary adaptive changes which include changes in salivary composition. Pregnancy also makes some negative effects on oral health owing to neglect of tooth brushing, nausea and vomiting which increases the risk of dental infections and count of oral bacteria.
How does vertical transmission take place?
High salivary bacterial counts (number of bacteria in the saliva) in the caregiver might cause transmission through a number of common daily activities. such as sharing of spoons with the infant, kissing on lips, sucking on the pacifier/ dummy, blowing air onto spoons etc. before giving it to the infant leads transfer and colonisation of bacteria in the child’s mouth.
Care to be taken to avoid transmission:
Early acquisition of cavity causing bacteria has been shown in many scientific studies to be a major risk factor for children to get cavities early in life.
1. Reducing the caregiver’s own bacteria would minimize transmission of bacteria to the child and reduce risk for cavities. A visit to your dentist during pregnancy will go a long way. This visit may include elimination of active carious lesion (by doing fillings or root canals) and using protective agents such as fluoride or chlorhexidine.
2. Saliva-sharing activities such a tasting food before feeding and sharing spoons should be altered. Avoid sharing of spoons or utensils between siblings as well.
3. Young children do not have the concept of hygiene and enjoy using their parents’ or older siblings toothbrush in their mouth. This helps transfer of germs too.
4. Fluoride is known to alter the colonization of bacteria in oral cavity. Using fluoridated toothpaste in dentate infants with age appropriate quantity will thus delay the bacterial colonization. Get in touch with your child’s pediatric dentist to get help deciding which toothpaste is best for your little one.
5. Avoid food/snacks with high fermentable (processed) sugars.
6. It is strongly recommended to visit your dentist with your child to ensure their teeth are in optimal condition as soon as the first tooth erupts or no later than the 1st birthday. This is a well baby visit at which the pediatric dentist gives the parent anticipatory guidance.
While we want our kids to pick up our traits, let dental decay not be one of them.
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