Since you’re here, you already know that gum disease is a huge silent epidemic in our global culture.
The sad statistics don’t lie.
If you choose to listen to the ‘official’ story from governmental data, 50% of adults in the US have advanced gum disease. We find a more accurate statistic from ‘in the trenches’ dentists working in people’s mouths every day. These dentists tell us the numbers are upward of 90% of adults have some stage of active gum disease.
So what does this have to do with children?
Well, unfortunately, gum disease isn’t just an ‘adult’ disease. Again, our ‘in the trenches’ dentists tell us that 65% of 15-year-olds have signs of active gum disease.
How did this happen?
How do our children get infected with a chronic bacterial infection at such a young age?
More importantly, what can we parents do to stop this and help educate others?
Sometimes inspiration for articles come from the strangest places.
This week, I found myself on a quick flight to Maui to visit a dentist friend of mine. Once on the plane, I sat back to enjoy one of our favorite activities while in public places… people watching.
While sitting near the back of the plane watching others board, I saw a young father, probably in his early 30s, getting the baggage for his wife and toddler child situated before taking his seat on the plane.
When he turned around, I saw ‘the insult’…
He had his child’s pacifier in his own mouth… Not the handle, but the part that his child sucks on.
I can only assume that he was making sure that he had the pacifier out to help the child handle the flight we were all about to take. The problem is he had the pacifier in his own mouth thereby giving the greatest opportunity for bad bugs from his own mouth to jump a ride on the pacifier right into the mouth of his child.
Maybe he felt he was helping the child. After all, there’s research that shows kids whose parents cleaned their pacifier with the parent’s mouth were less at risk for developing allergies. Researchers suggest that this lowered risk was from the child’s immune system being stimulated by the introduction of bacteria from the parent’s mouth.
While this may be true, does that mean that it’s a wise choice to introduce the flora from your mouth to your child’s with such an efficient method as a pacifier? If the parent is confident they have stellar oral health, it surely would be a wonderful gift. But unless you’re pretty sure, we think it wise to avoid this habit.
The damage was done. I wasn’t going to jump up and freak out the young family. Chances are, this wasn’t the first time this young dad had made this poor choice.
So, here I am writing you, hoping that sharing this story with you will help you realize how we unknowingly put the bugs implicated with gum disease into our own children’s mouths.
Please share this story with your loved ones who have young kids in the house so together we can understand how to easily stop spreading such disease-causing organisms.
Gum disease is a communicable disease
First, let’s get clear that specific strains of microbes are implicated in ‘causing’ gum disease. There are a handful of the really obvious, nasty bugs and many more bugs that will join the fight if the bad bugs get the upper hand.
While we realize that gum disease is more complex than ‘just’ what bugs you have in your mouth (something you will be hearing a lot more about from us soon), the fact still remains that if a person has not been infected with any of the bugs implicated with gum disease, they will not develop gum disease.
So, the game is to avoid contamination from these opportunistic ‘bad bugs’.
The 3 main ‘vectors of contamination’…
Here are the three main ways the bugs implicated with gum disease (and tooth decay for that matter) get into our systems. We call them “the 3 Ps”
The story above painfully illustrates one of the many ways we parents infect our children’s mouths. Sharing spoons of food is another very common way. Also, allowing your young child to put their hands in your (probably infected) mouth then allowing them to put their hands right back into their own mouth is another common way these bugs pass from parent to child.
If we were lucky enough to avoid picking up bad bugs from our parents, another common ‘vector or contamination’ is kissing. I’m not talking about the ‘kiss from grandma’ peck. But intimate kissing definitely can provide an excellent opportunity for the bad bugs colonizing one partner’s mouth to migrate to the other person.
We have lost count of the number of times we have heard from a customer, “Yeah, my gums were great until I got married.” We have found oftentimes the person doesn’t realize why their statement is so accurate.
It’s a solid fact that dogs are very, very common carriers of the bugs implicated with gum disease.
Never ever let a dog lick you in the mouth. And please help us educate parents of the risks of allowing the sweet family dog lick a toddler in the face.
So, remember “the 3 Ps” and please share this knowledge with your loved ones. Together we can raise the awareness of how to stop inoculating our children’s mouths with the bad bugs of gum disease and tooth decay.
ps. Do you have a “3 Ps”story to share with us? Please post a comment below so we can continue to learn from one another’s experience.
Helpful, Related Resources:
5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth [free video tutorial]
What’s the Best Order to Brush, Floss and Swish? [article]
How to Stop Bleeding Gums in 3 Easy Steps [article]
How to Create Greater Oral Health for the Whole Family [article]
How to Brush Your Teeth to Reduce Gum Disease [article & video tutorial]