As parents, we are all aware of diseases that are transmissible or, in other words, those that can be passed from one person to another. We spend a great deal of time making certain that our small children are not exposed to anyone with a cold or the flu, and that our kids wash their hands on a regular basis to avoid getting sick.

As caregivers of our children, most of us also try to educate our kids about good oral hygiene routines as they get older and more capable of self-care. If you’re a parent, you probably already know that you have to encourage your kids to brush and floss every day – and take them to the dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings – to ensure their good oral health. But you may not know that according to a pediatric dentist from the University of Alberta, you may be passing along cavities to your kids without ever realizing it.

As it turns out, tooth decay actually is a transmissible disease. Because cavities are formed due to bacteria that is present in a person’s mouth, whatever bacteria exists in the mouth of a parent is shared with that parent’s child anytime they share saliva. If you share an eating utensil or a straw with your child, for example, you are most likely passing on any existing bacteria from your mouth to that of your child.

This study might also raise the eyebrows of some expectant moms, who might have believed that they should avoid dental visits while pregnant. In fact, just the opposite is true. Experts recommend that pregnant moms – as well as women considering becoming pregnant – visit the dentist for regular exams and cleanings. That is the best way to determine whether any oral health issues exist in the mouth of the expectant mom and, in turn, what level of bacteria she could potentially pass along to her newborn. Dental experts tell us that the optimum time for expectant moms visit their dentists is during their second trimester of pregnancy.

Once your child is born, remember that the bacteria that form cavities can be transmissible, so try to keep your child’s mouth as clean as possible by wiping it out with a warm cloth, and encouraging your child to brush and floss as he or she grows older. And remember that according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, you should take your child in for his or her first dental visit by the time they’re a year old. It’s never too early to help your child maintain good oral health!

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