Streptococcus mutans Detection in Saliva and Colostrum Samples
Most of the bacteria colonizing the oral cavity in the first months of life are from the genus Streptococci. The colonization of Streptococci mutans is thought to occur after tooth eruption begins. A study published in 2019 in the journal Einstein aimed to “detect Streptococcus mutans in colostrum and saliva of neonates and compare with its detection in saliva of mothers.”1
Participants were volunteers with good oral and systemic health. The mothers underwent elective cesarian sections at full-term gestation. Babies with congenital malformations, perinatal hypoxia, intracranial hemorrhage, with length or weight incompatible with gestational age, or under antibiotic therapy were excluded from the study.
Upon hospitalization, mothers were interviewed, examined, and non-stimulated saliva samples were collected. Saliva of neonates was collected shortly after birth and prior to any contact with the mother, including breastfeeding. Samples of colostrum were collected from the mothers as well.
During pregnancy there is an increased gingival permeability due to hormone changes. This can contribute to transfer of bacteria into the bloodstream and to distant sites in the body. The results of this study showed that 33% of women with S. mutans present in saliva also had S. mutans present in colostrum. Additionally, 30% of newborns with mothers infected with S. mutans also had the bacterium detectable in their saliva. This suggests that the bacteria may be transferred intrauterine via amniotic fluid. Mothers that reported not seeing a dentist regularly and not undergoing dental care during gestation had higher detection of S. mutans in their saliva.
Further oral hygiene habits seem to play a role as the detection of S. mutans in patients reporting brushing their teeth three or more times a day was lower in all samples. There were also fewer colostrum samples with S. mutans detected in the mothers that brushed more frequently, even if they had positive detection of S. mutans in their saliva sample.
The authors conclude by stating, “Streptococcus mutans can be detected in a minority of colostrum samples. Behavioral data and hygiene habits appeared to influence the detection of Streptococci mutans in maternal saliva and colostrum samples. Dental treatment and caries prevention during pregnancy and after childbirth should be used to avoid the transmission of Streptococci mutans through maternal saliva and breastmilk.”
Do you explain bacteria transmission from mother to newborns to your pregnant patients? Have you considered increasing their recare frequency during pregnancy to reduce transmission? Were you aware that colostrum can contain S. mutans? Does this study change your stance on oral care during pregnancy?
Silva CBD, Mendes MM, Rodrigues BR, et al. Streptococcus mutans detection in saliva and colostrum samples. Einstein (Sao Paulo). 2019;17(1):eAO4515. Published 2019 Jan 31. doi:10.31744/einstein_journal/2019AO4515