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From the youngest toddler to the oldest grandparent, it's no secret that oral health is important for each individual. However, many families may not realize that what one person does in the household regarding their mouth can affect another.

Drs. Mandy and Robert Shearer at Soddy Daisy Smiles share that many parents often admit to neglecting their own dental care to help care for their children and are actually unknowingly passing on harmful habits and germs.

"I think one common thing that people do not realize is that children are not born with decay," Dr. Mandy shared. "The bacteria is spread to them by their caregivers. So basically, healthy parent mouth, healthy kid mouth."

She went on to explain that the bacteria they have in their mouth that causes decay can spread to their kids. So, not knowingly they spread the bacteria and kids still get cavities.

If you're wondering how it's possible for a caregiver to spread said bacteria to their children and other family members, there are actually several ways it can and does happen. Kissing, sharing eating utensils like a spoon or cup, sharing food, and more are all venues for the bacteria to travel.

"Children are most susceptible to the decay-causing bacteria for a very short time in their early years,  beginning as early as six months through around thirty-one months," Dr. Mandy added. "So practicing good oral hygiene for you and them during this time is very important."

Just like with anything in our world, bad routines and practices breed bad habits across the board, so setting good dental routines in place for everyone will save you from additional trouble down the road as well.

"Of course, bad habits practiced by families at large can create problems too," Dr. Robert said. "Slacking on your brushing and flossing and skipping your checkups can set up everyone for that bad bacteria buildup which can lead to a host of oral health issues."

Dr. Mandy also pointed out that it's important to always supervise kids younger than age 6 while they brush, as they are more likely to swallow toothpaste and need extra guidance on getting the right technique down and get a proper cleaning. The ADA also recommends that all children see a dentist by their first birthday.

"At this first visit, the dentist will explain proper brushing and flossing techniques and do a modified exam while your baby sits on your lap," Dr. Mandy said. "It's our job as dentists to educate our patients and take steps to try and keep our communities mouths happy and healthy."

Parents also need to be aware of what causes cavities to begin with in order to help keep them away. Dr. Robert said brushing and flossing at least twice a day is the best way to be sure the acid build up that comes from food and bacteria sitting too long on the teeth stays away, ultimately preventing the hole (cavity) from forming.

"Sugary foods like juices and candy can also cause erosion of the teeth enamel and create a cavity, so limiting that intake helps a great deal for the whole family too," he added.

And naturally if anyone starts to complain of tooth pain or sensitivity, it's important to call your dentist right away to get seen and determine if it's the beginning of a cavity and how to treat it so that more damage doesn't happen in the long run.

Dr. Mandy added that patients should continue brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day. Brushing calendars and apps on your phone can be helpful reminders to keep you on track if you're traveling a lot or at any kind of risk of breaking your normal routine at home in any way.

Finally, both Dr. Robert and Dr. Mandy say be sure to keep your scheduled dentist visits, and definitely don't wait until right before school or work resumes if you've been out of the groove for a while to get in and get seen.

"Most dental offices are full then and can't accommodate that short time frame," Dr. Mandy said. "To allow us to best serve you, it's best to be seen early and then we can also help you make a plan to stay on track with your oral health during any potential breaks coming down the line."

For more information about Soddy Daisy Smiles and their services, call the office at 423-332-5275 or visit soddydaisysmiles.com.

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