We know, mom. You are probably feeling nauseous or dry heaving at this moment. But, let's face it, somehow many kids go through this phase of picking his nose and ends up with us, screaming (at least the first time it happens), “Eww. Don’t eat your kulangot!”
It’s gross, yes, but your child might also be onto something. Mucus, particularly those found in your child’s nostrils, helps fight off a bacteria that causes cavities, according to research published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
And where is this mucus found in the body? To name a few, it’s the slippery stuff covering the eyes, the inside of the mouth, and the slime in your child’s nostrils, a.k.a. boogers and snot.
In fact, the protein in mucus called mucins can supposedly protect the teeth. Mucins make it hard for one type of cavity-causing bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, to hold on to your child’s pearly whites. In short, your child would have to, um, put his snot in his mouth for this to work.
We know you probably want to stop reading at this point, but there's more. The mucus might be so beneficial that it may be worthwhile to make synthetic versions. It’s what co-author of the study Katharina Ribbeck, an assistant professor in the department of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, plans to do. Compared to antibiotics that can stop a bacterial infection, mucus might be a better alternative as it prevents an infection from happening in the first place, Ribbeck explained to Ozy.
“Mucus is one of the reasons we're not sick all the time,” Ribbeck said in an informational video for TED-Ed. It’s the body’s first line of defense against bacteria as it contains mucins, antimicrobial peptides, antibodies, and even bacteria hungry viruses, she added.
“If microbes do become harmful and you get sick, the body ramps up mucus production to flush out the offenders quickly, and the immune system floods your mucus with extra white blood cells,” said Ribbeck. It’s the reason why you get so much snot when you have a cold.
Knowing all this, should you let your child coat his teeth in the stuff? Ribbeck and co-author Erica Shapiro Frenkel, a Ph.D. student, are still looking into more aspects of their research. And scientists still have to confirm mucin’s protective role before your child’s dentist gives his go signal for nose picking and booger eating.
In the meantime, stick to children’s toothpaste. “Fluoride is the best protection against dental cavities,” Dr. Carina De Los Reyes, former president of the Philippine Pediatric Dental Society Inc., told SmartParenting.com.ph.
For children 3 years old and below, check the packaging if the toothpaste has 1,000 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride then smear a thin layer of onto your child’s toothbrush. It’s okay if your child has yet to learn how to spit, says Dr. De Los Reyes. Ingesting this amount of toothpaste is safe for children in this age group.
For children 3 to 6 years old, check for 1,000 ppm of fluoride then place a pea-size amount of toothpaste. For children above 6 years old, toothpaste with up to 1,500 ppm of fluoride is recommended. Half a toothbrush of toothpaste is enough.