Are Cavities Contagious?

We all know the age-old adage that sweets, sugar, and candy cause cavities. But did you ever wonder if cavities were contagious? Could you “catch” a cavity the same way you can catch the flu or a cold? Well, scientists say yes, indeed tooth decay is contagious.

Bacteria that sticks to teeth and grows by feeding on the food particles left over from your last meal primarily cause cavities. This bacteria then create acid as a byproduct, which causes the small holes, or cavities, that destroys teeth.

Are Cavities Contagious?The most common cavity-causing bacteria is Streptococcus mutans, or S mutans. Infants and children are extremely susceptible to this particular strain of bacteria and recent studies have shown they most often pick it up from their primary caregiver (usually parents). Dr. Margaret Mitchell, a Chicago cosmetic dentist has suggested that one example may be a mother tasting her child’s hot food. Another example would be “cleaning” a pacifier that fell by putting it in your mouth. It is suggested that up to 80 percent of children contract S mutans by their third birthday, so performing and teaching oral hygiene from birth is critical.

In the same way a virus can be transmitted person-to-person, so can the bacteria that causes cavities. And not only can tooth decay be passed around like a bad cold, it happens all the time. Luckily, there are ways to minimize the transfer of bacteria.

  • Don’t pre-chew your baby’s food.
  • Don’t get saliva on your baby when kissing him or her on the lips.
  • Don’t “clean” a pacifier with your mouth (this is important enough to be mentioned twice.)
  • Don’t eat off your baby’s spoon or fork.
  • Clean your baby’s gums.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene yourself: Don’t forget, cavities are contagious between adults as well. Brush and floss daily!

Maintaining good oral health is important and the only way to prevent cavities. Do it for yourself and your loved ones!