The American Dental Association released a statement last week warning parents that dental decay-causing bacteria can be transmitted from adult to child by sharing eating utensils, or by the parent sucking a baby's pacifier clean.
The warning comes on the heels of a recently published study in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics about the immunological benefits of adult saliva, according to nj.com.
The study said that parents can transfer lots of good bacteria to their infant by sucking the pacifiers clean; it may reduce the risk of allergy development, possibly via immune stimulation by microbes transferred to the infant via the parent’s saliva.
However, the ADA warns that licking a pacifier, as promoted in the study, can transfer the cavity-causing bacteria from the parent to baby, increasing the possibility of tooth decay as the child grows.
"A child's teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they begin to erupt," said Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Maine and a pediatric dental spokesperson for the ADA, in a press release. "Cavity-causing bacteria, especially Streptococcus mutans, can be transferred from adult saliva to children, increasing their risk of getting cavities."