By: Rosie Torres, R.D.H.
In the classic movie Casablanca, Sam sang that “a kiss is just a kiss.” Not really a big deal, right? But did you know that you might catch more than feelings from “just a kiss?” A single kiss that lasts only about 10 seconds can transmit over 80 million bacteria from mouth to mouth! So, does this mean that you could get a cavity from kissing?
The short answer is yes! But that’s not all. Kissing can also cause other types of dental diseases.
Still think you’re ready to swap saliva? Read on to find out more and what you can do to protect yourself before you pucker up.
A cavity is a hole that forms in a tooth that comes from the decay process. Cavities are created when acids and bacteria in your mouth wear down your tooth’s hard outer layer which is called enamel. If you or your kissing partner isn’t the best at maintaining their oral hygiene, or hasn’t been to the dentist in a few years, it’s more possible to contract those nasty cavity-causing bacteria. And this risk doubles if both you and your partner have poor dental hygiene! Sounds gross, right?
This is when your gums get inflamed, and it is the starting stage for potential periodontal disease. The good news is that this one is totally reversible. But because the gums are inflamed, they start to bleed. Which means that both the bad bacteria and blood can be passed on through saliva when kissing. Picture a swimming pool of bacteria sloshing back and forth from one mouth to another.
Also called periodontal disease, periodontitis is when there is chronic gum inflammation and infection that destroys the supporting tissues of the teeth – the gums, periodontal ligaments, and the bone. Unfortunately, this one is irreversible. This disease is very aggressive, and it comes from bad bacteria that can be a result of poor oral hygiene. However, this type of bacteria is not the same as the one that causes cavities. Instead of attacking your tooth enamel, these bacteria attack the gum and bone and can eventually lead to severe tooth loss if left untreated. The good news is that the disease itself cannot be passed on, but the bacteria that cause it can be. Similar to the cavity-causing bad bacteria, this type can transfer from you to your partner via saliva or vice versa.
So how do you prevent getting a cavity from kissing?
- “Detect” someone’s poor oral health by smelling your partner’s breath. Bad breath is usually associated with an abundance of bad bacteria. If this is the case, it might be better not to kiss and tell until you’re both brushing twice a day and flossing once daily.
- Avoid sharing utensils, straws and toothbrushes with someone who has periodontitis. This can introduce new bad bacteria to your mouth.
- Visit your dentist and dental hygienist every 6 months to get a thorough dental cleaning and exam. Having routine check-up x-rays taken and getting your gums checked can rule out any potential problems or early signs of oral disease.
- If you are a new mother, you shouldn’t kiss your baby directly on the mouth or put a baby’s food utensil or pacifier in your mouth. The reason for this is that babies and young children don’t have the same types of oral bacteria as adults. This could make your baby more susceptible to getting cavities.
Worried About a Dental Health Issue?
The warning signs of gingivitis or periodontitis are red, swollen gums, bleeding when brushing or flossing and chronic bad breath. Symptoms of having a cavity are toothache, chronic tooth sensitivity, holes or pits that you can visibly see in the tooth, a visible dark stain on the tooth, pain when biting or chewing, and sensitivity to sweets, hot or cold. If you notice any of these, get to your dental team at Gallery 57 Dental ASAP! Remember, catch feelings, not cavities.