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Dental Decay Are Cavities Contagious?

  Imagine Dental October 07, 2014
By Kent J. Spurling, DDS, Imagine Dental

Looks like you have a new cavity, we’ll need to make an appointment to get that filled for you” may be the dreaded response from your dentist at your annual exam. Maybe the fear of that diagnosis has kept you from keeping your cleaning appointment or putting off setting up an appointment for a new patient examination. Or maybe you get your cleaning and exam faithfully, but have given up on even getting fillings done, because there’s always a cavity to fill or a filling that ends up turning into a crown or a root canal or extraction of a tooth down the road.

Many people face those same fears and feelings of helplessness when it comes to dental decay. Add insult to injury, much blame has been placed on you as the patient for not brushing or flossing enough, or enjoying your Snickers or Skittles a little too often, leaving you with a sense of guilt on top of the fear and helplessness. Granted, your daily oral hygiene and diet do contribute to decay, but that’s not the whole picture. 

Decades of research into the process of dental decay has lead the dental profession to a much fuller understanding of what causes decay, what protects against decay, and ultimately what can rid a mouth of decay for life. It’s not a magic pill or vaccination, but a management program that is based on the risk each individual patient has for developing decay. The program is based on striking a balance between risk factors that favor decay and protective factors that fight decay, such that the scales tip in favor of the protective factors and no decay.

What are the risk factors? Specific bacteria, frequent snacking, smoking tobacco, dry mouth, gum recession, orthodontic or prosthetic appliances, recent history of decay, and family history of decay.

Parents must understand that the bacteria that cause decay are introduced into the mouth within the first months of a baby’s life and come predominantly from the mother or primary care giver. That means dental decay is a transmissible or contagious disease. If mom or dad has decay problems, a child is at high risk for decay. As a result, your dentist needs to assess the risk factors and protective factors for your child as early as 1 year old so he or she does not fall victim to that same bad bacteria and suffer a lifetime of fillings and lost teeth.

What about adults?  Maybe you’ve been free of decay for years, but your spouse or significant other has decay. If you are sharing saliva with someone at high risk for decay, you are at an increased risk for decay yourself. A high-risk individual with no risk management plan has a 70 percent chance of new decay within a year. What is your decay risk? Ask your dentist to evaluate and help you implement a lifetime plan for true prevention for you and your loved ones.

For more information, phone 480-893-7733. Imagine Dental is located 4802 E Ray Rd #19, Phoenix, AZ 85044 or visit them online at

Photo credit: Merbe/iStock Back to Top

  Imagine Dental| October 07, 2014

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