Numerous studies show the strong association between dental caries and mutans streptococci. These studies also link vertical transmission of these bacteria – from parent to offspring – as the most common method of infection. Mothers provide the major reservoir ofmutans streptococci for their infants. It has been shown that the frequency of infant infection was approximately nine times greater when the maternal salivary levels were very high (105 colony forming units) compared to those mothers who had lower levels of 103 cfu or less. Further, children that had mutans streptococci in their biofilm by age 2 were also the most caries-active by age 4.
Horizontal transmission has also been shown as an effective method of transmission of dental caries. This transmission occurs through licking, touching, biting, sharing food and so on. Small children playing together can easily infect each other during these typical activities.
Is it possible that periodontal disease can have the same pattern of infection, beginning in early childhood but taking longer to develop so that the manifestation of this disease is noticed in the adult? In a representative study, 54% of a group of 150 children had periodontal pathogens known as the red complex – Treponema denticola [spirochetes], Porphyromonas gingivalis and Tannerella forsythia – the group of bacteria associated with the most severe forms of periodontal disease.
It was also found that if the caregiver harboured these periodontal pathogens, the child was 35 times more likely to also have the same bacteria. Findings indicate that periodontal disease in one of the parents is a significant risk indicator for offspring to become infected with red complex bacteria.
If periodontal disease, much like dental caries, begins early in life, than what precautions can we use to eliminate these pathogens and help restore a normal, healthy biofilm in affected children? Sampling the biofilm and analysing for periodontal pathogens is a simple, inexpensive test that provides volumes of information.
Transmission of Periodontal Pathogens