We all know colds are contagious, but can you actually catch cavities? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. While we don’t think of tooth decay as transmissible, the bacteria that causes tooth decay and cavities can be passed from one person to another.
How cavities can spread
Your mouth is full of bacteria, even when you brush and floss regularly. While most people associate tooth decay with poor oral hygiene or consuming sugary food and drinks, you can be exposed to oral bacteria that cause cavities even if you take perfect care of your teeth.
When you’re experiencing tooth decay, it’s often due to a bacteria called Streptococcus mutans or S. mutans. S. mutans is present in saliva, so if you’re doing anything that transfers saliva from one person to another, you run the risk of passing on your tooth decay.
Things you may not think twice about, such as kissing, sharing utensils and glasses, blowing on hot food or otherwise transfer saliva and may cause the bacteria to spread. If you have young children, you should be especially careful. Kids can catch S. mutans during infancy and when their teeth begin to erupt.
How to prevent ‘catching’ or passing on cavities
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent tooth decay—whether it originated in your mouth or someone else’s.
- Brush and floss regularly. The building blocks of dental health begin with brushing and flossing. If you already have tooth decay, it won’t stop it—but it will help reduce further decay until you can see a dentist. If you don’t have tooth decay, it will stop it from developing, even if you get the S. mutans bacteria from someone else.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash. If you’re in the early stages of tooth decay, prescription mouthwash with chlorhexidine can help. Otherwise, ask your dentist to recommend an over-the-counter antiseptic mouthwash that will kill harmful bacteria.
- Don’t share cups or utensils. Try to avoid anything that will spread saliva from one person to another, such as sharing food and drink. Avoid kissing your children on the lips.
- Cover your mouth. You probably already cover your mouth when you sneeze, but this is another great reason to keep up the habit.
- See your dentist regularly. If you’ve been avoiding the dentist, it’s important to keep up on your regular cleanings. Teeth cleaning helps to rid hard-to-reach bacteria from your mouth. Plus, your dentist will tell you if they see early signs of tooth decay.
When you need a caring, skilled dentist, call Fioritto Family Dental. Our dentists will help you achieve optimal oral health and reduce the chance of bacterial transmission.