It was a beautiful Sunday-spring-is-in-the-air afternoon, where I was enjoying a pool side brunch in Los Angeles. As I was mingling with the friends who were there, I noticed a mom with her 2-year-old son, holding a plate of food, mostly meat. She looked around to see if anyone was watching as she took pre-chewed food out of her mouth and gave it to her son.
My light and upbeat mood suddenly took a 180-degree dive in the other direction as I thought, “YUCK!” What if she has periodontal disease? This could be transmitted to her son!
After all, periodontitis develops in children! Also herpes virus, which causes not only lip lesions, but also breakouts on the roof of the mouth, can be transmitted. But not only that, if the mom has cavity-forming bacteria, those could also transfer to his baby teeth. Some studies have also shown that if the mother has ulcer-causing bacteria, H Pylori, this also can be transferred to the baby. HIV is another dangerous one that can be transmitted through premastication.
Premastication, pre-chewing, or kiss feeding is the act of chewing food for the purpose of physically breaking it down in order to feed another that is incapable of masticating the food by themselves. This is often done by the mother or relatives of a baby to produce baby food capable of being consumed by the child during the weaning process.
The chewed food in the form of a bolus is transferred from the mouth of one individual to another, either directly mouth to mouth, via utensils, hands, or is further cooked or processed prior to feeding. It is practiced all over the world and mostly it was started because they didn’t have blenders or baby food in jars.
Since I don’t follow celebrities as a rule, despite having several high-profile patients in my periodontal and health and wellness practices, I had no idea when I began research for this blog the controversy surrounding premastication due to actress Alicia Silverstone’s staunch defense of the practice.
I still choose with all respect to Ms. Silverstone and others, based on my professional experience, to caution my patients against it, despite critics who say there are not enough clinical studies to support dental opinions such as mine. This is an ideal case of you being better safe than sorry.
If you are a mom, I strongly advise you against this practice of premastication. However, if you believe the benefits for your baby or toddler outweigh the risks, I urge you to make sure you visit your dentist at least twice a year for a thorough check up and get professional cleanings every three to four months.
For moms, like the rest of us, it is so important that you brush twice a day and floss daily, as even sharing utensils can transmit oral bacteria to your baby.