Cavities Are Contagious?!?

Cavities Are Contagious?!?

October 24, 2018

By: Suzanna McAninley, DMD

One of the first questions patients ask me after I have completed my exam and evaluation on them is “Do I have any cavities?!?” . As my patient, I want everyone to understand exactly where cavities come from and how you can prevent them. Believe it or not, cavities are actually contagious because cavities are caused by bacteria.

Bacteria is a normal thing for people to have in their mouth. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria present in everyone’s mouth. When given the right food source, the bad bacteria can use that food to cause cavities. They eat the food particles that are left on the teeth and produce acid. This acid will then sit on the teeth and erode away your tooth structure. This causes the holes that are sometimes seen when you have a cavity.

Cavities can be spread by kissing, sneezing and even sharing eating utensils! A common reason why toddlers get cavities is because their mom or dad has cavities. A baby will drop their pacifier and mom pops it in her mouth to “clean” it before giving it back to baby. Or a mom will taste their child’s food before feeding them to test the temperature. These are common ways babies can be first exposed to cavity-causing bacteria. Significant others can also transfer bacteria to each other via kissing or sharing utensils.

I have heard from many patients over the years that they have “bad genetics” and that is where all of their cavities are coming from. This is true to an extent; the thickness of your enamel or the shape of your teeth can contribute to having more or less cavities. In general, if cavity-causing bacteria are present in your mouth the best thing that you can do to prevent them from wreaking havoc is to not give them a source of food. If there are no fermentable carbohydrates on your teeth, like potato chips or sugar, then the bacteria have nothing to eat and are unable to produce acid. Therefore, you won’t get cavities!

So what’s the best way to prevent cavities? Make sure there is no all-you-can-eat buffet in your mouth for the bacteria. The best way to remove food sources from your teeth are to brush and floss everyday! The less time food has to sit on your teeth, the less of a chance you have of getting cavities. Another helpful way to avoid cavities is to use a toothpaste or mouthwash with fluoride. Fluoride can help heal those areas that the acid from bacteria has attacked. Fluoride gets a bad rap, but it’s one of the easiest ways to help avoid getting cavities. We’ll talk more about fluoride in other posts!

Bell Harbour Dental is a family owned, patient-first practice located in Belltown, Downtown Seattle. Contact Us today to boost your dental health today!

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