A study released in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that there is evidence that sucking on a child’s pacifier before giving it to them can reduce the child’s risk of developing allergies later on in life. The article proposed that by passing oral microbes to a child through a pacifier a parent can boost the child’s bacterial diversity and create helpful immunities. Researchers observed nearly 200 parent-child behaviors during the study for 36 months. Some of the parents sucked on their child’s pacifier to “clean” it, while others did not. The children of the parents who did suck on the pacifier were less likely to suffer from eczema, asthma and were generally desensitized to allergens. The study was published saying sucking on a child’s pacifier before giving it to them is a means of boosting their immunities to allergy development.
So do parents everywhere have the go ahead to pass on some well-meaning oral microbes for the betterment of their children? The American Dental Association says, not quite. The ADA issued a response to the study that warned against the dangers of passing saliva to young children. The reason being that the harmful bacteria known to cause tooth decay and cavities can just as easily be passed on along with the helpful ones that might reduce the risk of allergy development. While all young children may not have teeth at this time the bacteria can remain present and grow in the mouth, making them more likely to experience decay as their first teeth come in. Unfortunately, the kind of bacteria that causes cavities is not the kind that a child can become immune to through exposure. Parents can also pass this harmful bacteria to their children by sharing utensils with them.
Instead the ADA recommends breast-feeding as a way to build immunities at a very young age. They also suggest caring for a young child’s oral health by:
Softly brushing gums or wiping them with a washcloth after eating to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria.
Visiting the dentist after the first tooth has erupted or at the age of one.
Having a child finish their bottle before laying them down to sleep.
Promoting a healthy diet as soon as a child begins eating solid foods.
As a parent you will be responsible for your child’s oral hygiene and health until they are capable of managing some of the load themselves. Children should begin brushing their own teeth (with a little help and supervision from you) not much long after they’ve begun feeding themselves. It’s important that you teach your child proper oral hygiene habits at a young age so that they maintain them into their adult lives. By purposefully sharing your saliva and the bacteria it contains with your child you are putting them at greater risk for oral health complications early on in life. Instead do the opposite! If you have real concerns about your child’s risk of developing allergies speak with your pediatrician about all that can be done by way of prevention.
Call Dr. Bosse of Greenspoint Dental and make an appointment for you or your child today!