Are Cavities Really Contagious?

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So much can be communicated in just one kiss — including the bacteria Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus, which flourish on teeth and gums and cause cavities.

Sugary candies are usually blamed for rotten teeth, but the real culprits are bacteria. They subsist on food particles left in your mouth, and the acid they produce eats away teeth. The bugs travel easily from person to person. Reported AOL Health:

“Particularly, the easiest way to catch a cavity is when a mother is feeding a child,” Dr. Irwin Smigel, creator of Supersmile, told AOL Health. The mother will taste the food to check the temperature and then continue feeding the child. “Immediately, that’s how kids get cavities,” he says.

Kissing between couples can also cause the spread of harmful bacteria. Smigel has seen many patients, particularly women, who have clean, healthy mouths, discover a cavity or two after entering into a relationship with a man who has cavities, gum disease or hasn’t been to the dentist in several years.

Infants and children are especially vulnerable to the bacteria. A 2007 study conducted at the University of Queensland’s School of Dentistry in Australia found that cavity-causing bacteria was found in the mouths of 30% of 3-month-old babies and more than 80% of 24-month-olds with primary teeth. (More on Time.com: See photos of a worldwide day’s worth of food)

To prevent the germs from multiplying, dentists recommend avoiding sticky candies, rinsing with mouthwash after eating, drinking water throughout the day to flush away plaque and bacteria, and flossing. You can also chew sugar-free gum, which promotes beneficial saliva.

But by far the best way to ward off cavities is to brush your teeth twice a day, and especially at night: during sleep, the mouth produces less saliva, which allows bacteria to proliferate on teeth and gums. (More on Time.com: See a special report on how not to get sick)

“If you can brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with fluoride, the results are immeasurable,” Smigel told AOL Health.

Related Links:

Do Dental Scans Put Your Child at Risk of Cancer?

Is More Sugar Worse for Your Teeth? Not Necessarily

Post-Halloween Dental Advice: Kids Can Gorge on Candy

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