A new study has shown that kissing your baby on the lips can do some really serious damage to your teeth.
What could be wrong with giving your baby an affectionate peck on the lips? It’s a way of bonding, surely, and you get a whiff of that baby’s head smell.
Well, it turns out that quite a lot could be wrong with a speedy smooch, as research suggests that kissing your baby on the lips may lead to dental problems later in life.
Cavities and dental decay, more specifically. So a little kiss could end up costing you in fillings later on. This isn’t new information, by the way. It’s just that few of us are fully aware of the health risks of giving our children a kiss on the lips, particularly when it comes to the often overlooked area of dental health.
A study from 2015 from the University of Oulo, led by Virtanen, noted that kissing babies can increase their risk of tooth decay later in life, as the bacteria that causes cavities can be passed on through saliva – but few mothers are aware of this.
Researchers quizzed 313 mums about their behaviours with their children, including whether they kissed on the lips and if they ever shared spoons.
They were also asked about how often they brush their teeth, their smoking habits, and their age – all of which can alter someone’s risk of tooth decay. While 38% of mums kissed their children on the lips and 14% shared a spoon with their child, few had any idea that the bacteria that causes cavities could be passed on in this way.
‘Dental decay (cavities in teeth) is considered an infectious and transmissible disease,’ Dr Raha Sepehrara explains to Metro.co.uk. ‘This means that it can be passed on from one person to another or in this case from mother to child.
‘There are papers from over a decade ago that have pointed out that the bacterium responsible for initiating decay, Streptococcus mutans, can be passed from mother to baby.
‘Babies do not have these bacteria in their mouth. Streptococcus mutans can infect a baby’s mouth from sharing a spoon with the parent, or the parent licking the dummy prior to giving to the baby or possibly through kisses on the lips.
‘Some studies have shown that children who had acquired those bacteria earlier in life were more prone to dental decay compared to children who acquired them later in life.’
So essentially, while a smooch won’t immediately wreck your child’s teeth, you could be introducing them to the bacteria responsible for dental decay, putting them at a higher risk of cavities.
Dr Sepehrara advises trying to avoid any saliva contamination from parent to child for as long as possible – that means no kissing on the lips, sharing cutlery, or wiping off a dummy with your spit.
Alongside increasing the risk of dental decay, kissing your child on the lips is an easy way to pass on infections such as a cold or herpes, so it’s worth avoiding in general.
But of course, only kissing your child on their forehead won’t cut their risk of cavities down to zero. Dr Sepehrara is quick to remind parents that general dental healthcare is absolutely essential for your kiddos.
‘It is essential that the child’s teeth are cleaned twice daily,’ says Raha, ‘that they have a healthy balance diet (avoiding sugary drinks and foods) and that they see the dentist as soon as the first tooth comes through, to get them used to dental visits from an early age.’
That’s us told. Look after your child’s teeth, stop sharing spoons, and go easy on the kisses.