Are cavities contagious? Tips to protect your teeth

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on April 28, 2011 at 9:40 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 28 at 9:42 AM

PHOENIX -- You know a cold is contagious. You know the flu is contagious. But did you know cavities are contagious? It might sound like some kind of scare tactic or hoax, but researchers say it's not only true, but it happens all the time.

People generally blame candy and sugar for cavities, but in truth, bacteria is the culprit. The bacteria -- the most common being Streptococcus mutans -- produce the acid that destroys teeth. Here's where the contagious part comes into play. Cavity-causing bacteria can be passed from person to person just like a cold of flu germ.

"Kissing is the main way that bacteria is passed back and forth between two people," said Dr. Alison Schwartz of Healthy Smiles Dentistry in Scottsdale.

Schwartz broke it all down for Kaley O'Kelley. She also explained what you need to do to protect your teeth, as well as the teeth of your little ones since kids can be especially vulnerable to Streptococcus mutans.

She suggested investing in a high-end electric toothbrush like the ones made by Oral-B and Sonicare. Another thing she really like is the Water Pik.

"The Water Pik is top-of-the-line home care," she said. "It's so much better than flossing."

For babies, Schwartz suggest teeth wipes containing xylitol. That will help remove plaque and combat the acid caused by bacteria.

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