Date: 19th July 2010
Dental Decay Is An Infectious Disease Passed From Mothers To Their Babies
The latest international research confirms that tooth decay is an infectious disease passed from mothers to their
children reinforcing the message that oral health should be a family affair, according to Dr Andrea Shepperson, lead
dentist at City Dental, Quay Park in Auckland, part of Lumino The Dentists, New Zealand’s only national dental
Dr Shepperson, an international lecturer in dentistry explains that the new research from the University of California
published in the Journal of Dental Research1 shows that: `untreated decay in mothers almost doubled the odds of one of
their children having serious untreated decay.
‘Dental decay is an infectious disease which is vertically transmitted from parent to child. Babies are born without the
bacteria which cause dental decay but pick this up from their mothers. The bacteria become established on new teeth as
they erupt. Mothers with high levels of Mutans Stretococci (a common decay causing bacterium) were likely to place their
children at risk of high levels of decay. Left untreated, this infection can continue throughout life.
`We are encouraging mothers to be conscious of their own dental health because it is clearly shown now to be a family
affair. Testing for this bacteria is a simple test which allows us to alert parents to the potential risk of decay. I
can take a swab and tell my patients within 15 seconds if they are at risk from this kind of tooth decay. Then we’re
well armed to help them counteract it. We offer a wide range of products for all ages to mitigate the risk.’
The new study warns that the bacteria that cause tooth decay can be transmitted from person-to-person, including
mother-to-child. Almost half of the mothers studied and more than a fourth of the children and adolescents had untreated
tooth decay. One means of transmission could be from a mother tasting a child’s food and then using the same spoon to
feed her child.
The findings underscore the need for family dentists to ask
about the oral health of other family members. The authors stress that dentists should encourage all family members to
get treatment, especially if a child already has tooth decay, and provide the family with the preventive measures,
knowledge and skills to help prevent future disease.