If you remember, a recent post of mind reported on the study that found that pacifier sucking by parents helped transfer beneficial bacteria and lower the risk of allergies to their infants. Apparently the American Dental Association takes exception to the suggestion that babies may benefit from this practice.
Jonathan Shenkin, DDS, MPH, a pediatric dentist in Maine and a pediatric dental spokesperson for the ADA said in a press release on May 6, 2013,
A child’s teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they begin to erupt. Cavity-causing bacteria, especially Streptococcus mutans, can be transferred from adult saliva to children that may increase their risk of developing cavities… Licking a pacifier, as promoted in the study, can potentially transfer cavity-causing bacteria from the parent to baby which may increase the baby’s chance of developing tooth decay as they grow.
When asked to respond to these statements from the ADA, the researchers of the study, said,
There is no convincing evidence that ‘close salivary contact’ between parents and child [is] causally related to enhanced risk of caries… Actually, the opposite has been reported in a study: ‘close salivary contact’ is inversely related to the risk of caries development. Large meta-analysis studies show that there is no correlation at all between pacifier use, per se, and caries development… We have looked quite deep into the published literature to look for the evidence that ‘transfer of cariogenic bacteria’ from parent to infant is a causative factor behind caries. We have not found any convincing evidence of causality.
S. Mutans is the Culprit
S. Mutans is the bacteria that causes tooth decay, but it cannot establish itself before the teeth have erupted. When a parent transfers bacteria to the infant via the pacifier, they are providing beneficial bacteria that will help colonize the baby’s gut.
When there is a good colony of diverse microbiota in the gut, it is protective against pathogenic bacteria and a great benefit to health in general, as current research is finding time after time. Early transfer of bacteria to an infant that has no tooth eruption yet is most likely a good practice.
ADA Behind the Times
The ADA is the organization that is still supporting the use of mercury amalgams in dental restorations so I would take what they say with a grain of salt.
To give the ADA some credit, Dr. Shenkin did support breast feeding.
Breast milk is widely acknowledged as a good immunity-builder as well as the most complete form of nutrition for infants. This is something on which both the ADA and the AAP agree.
We know that infants start to colonize their intestines as they travel through the birth canal and with the first sip of breast milk. We also know that our modern standards of cleanliness have diminished the diversity in our micrbiota that is so important.
Use Common Sense
Of course if you have a cold or some other pressing health problems you probably should not clean your baby’s pacifier with your saliva. Common sense should reign.
However, it is of critical importance to populate the baby’s gut with good flora as soon as possible. A good traditional diet with lots of fermented foods and good fats (for mineral absorption) is important for everyone in the family. That is the best way to ensure good dental health.
What so you think? Leave a comment and let me know!