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  • Dr. David Alfaro

Did you know that caries is contagious?

Are you aware that dental caries is contagious?

It is! Dental caries (the disease that causes cavities in your teeth), is a bacterial infection that is transmissible from person to person. That's right! We pass on our caries causing bacteria (streptococcus mutans) to others. In fact, the World Health Organization calls dental caries and other oral diseases:

"the most common and communicable, infectious diseases in humans."

It is so common that if we live long enough, you will most certainly have caries at some point in your life.

How do we get caries in the first place?

Well, we gotta blame mom (and dad) on this one. There is a large body of research that indicates that cavity causing bacteria are first introduced to babies by their parents. We are not born with these bacteria.

Have you ever licked a spoon to clean it and give it back to your baby?

What about tasting the baby food or checking the temperature with your mouth before feeding your little one?

Has your baby ever placed his/her hand in your mouth and then right into theirs?

That's often how this transmission occurs, and the earlier that this happens, the sooner that your child becomes at risk for caries.

So what can I do to prevent cavities?

I am a firm believer that a dental exam, and treatment goals aimed at reducing maternal caries risk, should be a regular part of prenatal health care regimens. Go to the dentist if you are expecting, and definitely take your baby when they have started teething. It is important to learn about oral health at an early age.

We know that a mom's bacterial levels and caries rate is correlated to her childs...and it is not just behavioural or dietary (brushing and eating habits), but appears to be more related to the physical transmission of the bacteria from mother to child.

If we can reduce the mother's risk of caries, the child's risk will be reduced as well.

Inevitably, we all get contaminated with cavity causing bacteria and need to keep them at bay. We are dealing with a bacterial biofilm that needs to be removed on the regular, so brush with an electric toothbrush, go to the doc for professional cleanings, and use Fluoride.

No hippy, milk-derived pastes, or swishing with oils, or chewing on bark, is going to work as well as Fluoride in fighting cavities. The more research that is produced, the more and more that Fluoride still comes out on top as the best cavity fighter, and by a long shot.

If you are worried about the "toxic" effects of Fluoride, just do not swallow it, and you will be ok.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Dave

Photo credits:


2. A. Jackson Co.

3. By Thegreenj (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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