Caries Risk Transmission from Mother to Child

Caries is a transmissible disease!

  • Mothers are the main source of passing streptococci mutans, the bacteria responsible for causing caries, to their infants.
  • Transmission occurs via saliva contact such as tasting or pre-chewing food.
  • If mom's bacterial level is high, transmission is more likely.
  • If colonization is delayed until after age two, then the child will have fewer caries.
  • Caregivers with caries also often pass on bad habits (high sugar intake, poor oral hygiene).
  • Fathers can pass on the bacteria, but studies show this is less common.
  • Message to moms should be BRUSH FOR TWO!

Bacterial transfer can occur via shared utensils

Annett Vauteck/
Annett Vauteck/


US Department of Health and Human Services. Oral health in America. A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health; 2000.

Ramos-Gomez FJ, Weintraub JA, Ganskyet SA, et  al. Bacterial, behavioral and environmental factors associated with early childhood caries. Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry. 2002; 26(2):165-173.

Douglass JM, LI Y, Tinanoff N. Systematic review of the association between mutans streptococci in primary caregivers and mutans streptococci and dental caries in their children. Pediatric Dentistry 2008, 30(5):375-387.