Reports & Studies

Caution parents – risk of infection!

PD Dr. Kristina Bertl, PhD MSc MBA

Periodontal disease is one of the most common conditions among adults and can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. This is bad enough for the patient affected, but can it also put their children at risk? Can the bacteria that contribute to the development of this disease actually be transmitted via saliva?

Caution parents – risk of infection!
Caution parents – risk of infection!

This question was the subject of a recent study by a Brazilian research group (Reis et al. 2023) which compared the oral microbiome of children of various ages with parents with or without periodontal disease. Saliva samples were taken from 50 children of parents with untreated or insufficiently treated periodontitis and from 50 children of parents with good periodontal health. Each of these groups of 50 children, with ages ranging from 0 to 18, were further divided according to their dentition as follows:

  • 5 children with no teeth yet
  • 15 children with milk teeth
  • 15 children with mixed dentition
  • 15 children with permanent dentition

The composition of the oral microbiome was compared within the different groups according to dentition and between those with parents with or without periodontitis. This cross-sectional study revealed some fascinating results which are of interest for parents:

  • The oral microbiome changes with the eruption of the primary and secondary dentition.
  • A clear difference between children of parents with and without periodontitis was evident, particularly in children with mixed dentition and those with permanent dentition.
  • In children of parents with periodontitis, these differences were characterized by a more pathogenic microbiome with a higher number of periodontitis-associated bacteria.
  • In summary, in children of parents with periodontitis, there was a switch to a more dysbiotic oral microbiome from the mixed dentition stage onwards.

The oral microbiome develops from birth and is influenced by multiple factors, such as the environment, diet, and the immune system, as well as by transmission from parents. This means that timely diagnosis and successful treatment of periodontal disease not only helps to protect your own teeth but also those of your children!


  1. Reis, A. A., Monteiro, M. F., Bonilha, G. M., Saraiva, L., Araújo, C., Santamaria, M. P., Casati, M. Z., Kumar, P., & Casarin, R. C. V. (2023). Parents with periodontitis drive the early acquisition of dysbiotic microbiomes in their offspring. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 50(7), 890–904. 13815