On Binkies and Bacteria

Our Placerville dentists talk about the risks of cleaning pacifiers with human saliva.

A recent Swedish study concluded that parents who “clean” their baby’s pacifier by sucking on it reduce the risk of allergies in their babies. Yet, numerous dental studies have concluded that cleaning a baby’s pacifier with parental saliva introduces cavity-causing bacteria, increasing the likelihood of dental decay at an early age.

What is a parent to do with such conflicting advice? Here are some important facts on this matter presented by the Placerville Dental Group.

Why Suck on a Pacifier?

First, the “Suck on the Pacifier” study: Swedish researchers followed a group of 184 children from birth, with a focus on how many parents cleaned their child’s pacifier with their own saliva, tap water or boiled water. The babies in the sucking group were three times less likely to suffer from eczema and other allergies at the age of eighteen months. The Pediatrics report concluded that early introduction of oral microflora promotes a healthy immune system.

Why You Should Not Suck on a Pacifier

Now the “Do Not Suck” studies: According to the American Dental Association (ADA), bacteria in the mouths of parents can be transferred from adult to child by sharing spoons, mouth kisses, bites of food from the parent’s mouth and cleaning a pacifier by sucking on it. “Cavity causing bacteria, especially Streptococcus mutans, can be transferred from adult saliva to children,” says Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a spokesperson for the ADA. That increases the risk of childhood tooth decay.

Recommendations for Healthy Teeth During Childhood

  • For the health of your children, you need to first take good care of your own teeth. The spread of harmful oral bacteria happens when there is active decay in the mouth of a parent or caregiver and can be passed by simple acts such as sharing food or kissing a baby.
  • Take good care of your baby’s teeth. Wipe their mouth and teeth regularly with a soft, wet clean cloth, even when their little teeth look perfectly healthy. Take them twice a year to a dentist to keep their baby teeth free from cavities.
  • Give your children healthy foods to eat and avoid prolonged exposure to juices and sugary drinks in their sippy cups and bottles.
  • Don’t stop kissing your children! But if you have active decay in your mouth, remember to keep it to yourself. Keep your children cavity-free so they don’t have to “inherit” your dental problems.
  • Boost their immune system with breastfeeding, whenever possible.

There are better ways of keeping your child healthy than sharing your oral bacteria on their pacifier. Early dental hygiene and healthy eating habits will also contribute to their oral health and their overall well-being.

Placerville Dental Group
blog@placervilledentistry.com
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