You may think that kissing is a harmless way to express your love and affection, but did you know that it can also expose you to harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause cavities and other diseases?
According to a recent article by Parents, cavities are caused by bacteria called S. mutans that feed on sugar and produce acid that erodes the tooth enamel. Babies are born without these bacteria, but they can get them from their mothers or other caregivers through saliva exchange, such as sharing food, cups, kisses, or licking pacifiers.
“Cavities are typically passed through mouth-to-mouth contact when there is an exchange of saliva,” says Dr. John Layliev, a cosmetic dentist in New York City. “Your everyday peck isn’t really enough to do it, but an intense tongue-touching spit-swapping makeout sesh will.”
But cavities are not the only thing you can get from kissing. Saliva can also contain other bacterial and viral pathogens that can cause diseases such as herpes, hepatitis, mononucleosis, tuberculosis, and COVID-19.
“Human viruses are also frequent inhabitants of the human mouth, and their presence in saliva may be caused by the direct transfer of saliva from infected individuals, a bloodborne infection of the salivary glands, infection of the oral mucosa, or serumal exudates from diseased periodontal sites. It has long been recognized that saliva can contain potential pathogens in quantities sufficient to infect other individuals,” says Dr. Jørgen Slots, a professor of periodontology at the University of Southern California.
So how can you avoid getting cavities and diseases from kissing? The best way is to practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly. You should also avoid sharing utensils, cups, or chapstick with anyone who has signs of infection or poor oral health.
“Since sharing of utensils has become a norm, so does the spread of cavity-causing bacteria. The saliva left on the utensils becomes the passport of the bacteria to transfer from one mouth to the other,” says Dr. Ian Tompkins, a general dentist in Ithaca, New York.
You can also use fluoride toothpaste, limit sugary snacks and drinks, and rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking. These habits can help prevent plaque formation and acid erosion on your teeth.
Of course, kissing is not all bad. It can also have positive effects on your mood, immune system, and relationship. Just make sure you do it with someone who cares about your health as much as you do. And don’t forget to brush your teeth before you pucker up!
– Izvestia informed which diseases are transmitted with saliva, The Eastern Herald, June 9, 2023
– You Can Get Cavities From Kissing, SELF, June 8, 2023
– Bacterial and viral pathogens in saliva: disease relationship and infectious risk, Periodontology 2000, June 7, 2023
– The Surprising Truth About Cavities in Children, Parents, July 30, 2019