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Did you know babies could have tooth decay even before they have teeth? How is that possible you ask? Well, I’m glad you did!

Research done at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and two research institutes in Lubbock in Texas found evidence of bacteria associated with early childhood caries (AKA tooth decay or a cavities) in the saliva of infants with no teeth. Their findings suggest that infection with bacteria like Streptococcus mutans in the oral cavity occurs earlier in the development of children than previously thought.

Babies are not born with the bacteria but are infected by parents and caregivers who are infected with the bacteria. “Tooth decay is a bacterial infection and you can spread it from one person to another during the window of infectivity, which is during infancy and especially during the time of tooth eruption. That’s when the teeth are most vulnerable. It’s as if you had a bad cold and were kissing your child, you would spread the cold virus.” Said Dr. Jane Soxman in the Diane Mapes article “Mom’s kiss can spread cavities to baby”

It is important to note, the transmission of bacteria through saliva is just one piece of the puzzle. Tooth decay is also caused by a number of different factors, including genetics, oral hygiene, feeding practices, such as letting your baby constantly suck on a sippy cup full of juice or other sugar-laden liquids.

Currently, pediatric dentistry experts recommend stopping bottle-feeding infants at 14 months and regularly cleaning gums with a cloth or special toothbrush. Though, The results from the study could mean new strategies for preventing caries in children, the researchers said.

“We want to characterize the microbiological evolution that occurs in the oral cavity between birth and tooth eruption, as teeth erupt, and as dietary changes occur such as breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, liquid to solid food, and changes in nutrient profile,” said Kelly Swanson, lead researcher and Associate Professor of Animal and Nutritional Sciences.

So if you have a newborn and have any questions about how you should be caring for your child’s teeth and gums contact your dentist. If you need to find a good pediatric dentist, you can easily find one using DentistUSA!