Dental caries is considered an infectious transmissible disease within our saliva. Mutans Streptococci (MS) is considered to be the principal group of bacteria responsible for the invitation of dental decay. MS adhere to teeth, metabolize sugars and produces acids that demineralize tooth structure. Babies are not born with MS, but colonization may occur at the time of birth and over 70% of the time it is transmitted by their mother or primary caregiver (1,3).
The higher the levels of maternal/primary caregiver salivary MS, the greater the risk of the infant being colonized at a younger age. In order to suppress the reservoirs of MS, it is important for the mother or primary caregiver to maintain a healthy well rounded diet, reduce the frequency of simple carbohydrate intake, applying topical fluoride at routine dental visits, restoring active caries, and chewing xylitol gum.
Xyltiol is a 5 carbon sugar alcohol that looks, tastes and has similar sweetness to sucrose, but with 40% fewer calories. It is plant derived and is found in small quantities in fruits and vegetables. It has been shown to reduce the production of plaque and number of MS in the mouth. Evidence has shown that parents that chewed xylitol gum (4 pieces a day for 20 minutes) as early as 3 months after birth can significantly decrease the child’s caries rate(2).
Transmission of caries can also occur between siblings of similar age or children in daycare(1).
A healthy smile for your child starts before they are born. By the age of 1 or 6 months after their first teeth erupt, it important that they see a pediatric dentist for an initial exam, cleaning, and fluoride treatment. Follow these helpful hints to prevent the spread of Mutans Streptococci (MS).
1. Genotypic diversity of mutans streptococci in Brazilian nursery children suggests horizontal transmission.
Mattos-Graner RO, Li Y, Caufield PW, Duncan M, Smith DJ. J Clin Microbiol. 2001 Jun;39(6):2313-6.
2. Influence of maternal xylitol consumption on acquisition of mutans streptococci by infants.Söderling E, Isokangas P, Pienihäkkinen K, Tenovuo J. J Dent Res. 2000 Mar;79(3):882-7.
3. Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sanguinis colonization correlated with caries experience in children.Ge Y, Caufield PW, Fisch GS, Li YCaries Res. 2008; 42(6):444-8.