Who gave you tooth decay?

  • Published
  • By Capt. Dwayne Gentry
  • 22nd Medical Group dental clinic
Did a loved one unintentionally give you a cavity causing bacteria?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is the most common infectious diseases among children. They also reported that one quarter of children are affected by tooth decay between the ages of 2 and 5, and half of adolescents are affected by tooth decay by the ages of 12-15.

Although tooth decay is preventable, we are still plagued by its effects. You may have heard the dentist say to only brush and floss the teeth you want to keep, but you've probably never heard a dentist say to only brush and floss your teeth if you want to prevent your children or significant other from losing their teeth.

Yes, one's neglect of brushing and flossing could harm others.

Cavities in teeth are formed when acid leaches calcium out of our teeth. Since our teeth are mostly made of calcium, the loss of it causes a hole in the tooth. Our mouths house hundreds of different kinds of bacteria, most of which have little effect on our oral health, but one group of bacteria known as mutans streptocci, is notorious for causing cavities.

This group of bacteria resides on the plaque build-up around our teeth, eats carbohydrates (sugars or starches) and releases acid as its byproduct. Over time the constant acid attack on the teeth will cause a cavity. So, how do the bacteria get in our mouths in the first place?

When children are born, their mouths are free from these bacteria. It is usually the mother or the primary care taker who infects the child's mouth.

Mothers or anyone who has close contact with a child can help reduce the spread of these bacteria by not sharing saliva with the child and by keeping low counts of the bacteria in their own mouths.

The bacteria need food to thrive and survive, so reducing our intake of sugar and carbohydrates or removing food debris from the oral environment, we can also reduce the amount of bacteria and have less of an acid attack. Other considerations are to thoroughly rinse with water after a sugary meal or beverage, use an antiseptic mouth rinse, brush and floss before going to sleep (leaving carbohydrates on the teeth while sleeping increases bacteria colonization significantly due to lack of saliva flow and movement of the tongue and cheeks), or use gum or mints containing Xylitol (a sweetener that can't be synthesized by the bacteria and disrupts its ability to thrive).

For more information on dental care, call (316) 759-5181 or stop by the 22nd MDG dental clinic for printed information pamphlets.