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Drop Those Pacifiers!

ADA Says Saliva Harbors Cavity-Causing Bacteria that Can Be Transmitted to Babies

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CHICAGO, May 6, 2013—Parents should be aware that bacteria that cause dental decay can be transmitted from adult to child by sharing eating utensils, or by the parent sucking on a baby’s pacifier to clean it. A study recently published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, about the immunological benefits of adult saliva is limited in scope and does not take into consideration that adult saliva may also contain a variety of microorganisms which may be harmful to health, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Licking a pacifier, as promoted in the study, can potentially transfer cavity-causing bacteria from the parent to baby which may increase the baby’s chance of developing tooth decay as they grow.

“A child’s teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they begin to erupt,” said Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Maine and a pediatric dental spokesperson for the ADA. “Cavity-causing bacteria, especially Streptococcus mutans, can be transferred from adult saliva to children that may increase their risk of developing cavities.”

Dr. Shenkin points to other steps that parents can take to help children develop a healthy immune system. “Breast milk is widely acknowledged as a good immunity-builder as well as the most complete form of nutrition for infants. This is something on which both the ADA and the AAP agree,” he said.

The ADA recommends that parents protect the dental health of young children by promoting a healthy diet, monitoring their intake of food and drink, brushing their teeth or wiping gums after mealtimes and by having infants finish their bedtime or naptime bottle before going to bed. The ADA recommends that children receive their first dental visit within six months of eruption of the first tooth and no later than 12 months of age. 

For more information, visit the ADA’s consumer website www.MouthHealthy.org.

Editor’s Note: Reporters are invited to follow the ADA on Twitter @AmerDentalAssn

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit www.ada.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website www.MouthHealthy.org.