Knowing a potential significant other’s sexually transmitted disease status is mandatory these days. But is there even more to be concerned about?
It seems as though before you even kiss goodnight, you may want to check your date’s dental records. Studies show that cavities and gum disease are contagious—and can be transmitted through swapping spit, just like colds and flu. In fact, some experts estimate that up to 500 different germs can be transmitted in a single kiss.
Saliva and the mouth are full of viruses and bacteria, including some that cause cavities and gum disease. Kissing a partner who is actively infected with gum disease or cavity-causing bacteria can cause a person who previously had a low concentration of these bacteria to ‘catch’ problems, due to the extra dose of bacteria from kissing—particularly if that person has poor oral habits that set the stage for tooth decay.
In a dental care article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, it was revealed that periodontitis might be passed from parents to children and between intimate partners.
The bacteria that inhabit the periodontal pockets are also present on the oral soft tissues, teeth, tongue and saliva. They can be transferred from one person to another through saliva, intimate kissing, sharing of food, utensils, or toothbrushes, and can result in exposure to saliva that contain the bacteria that cause periodontal disease.
2. Cold sores
Cold sores are caused by Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1). In contrast to infections spread through the saliva, HSV-1 is spread through open cold sores on the lips or near the mouth. Although the infection is contagious through all stages of a cold sore, the infection is most contagious when the sore is open and leaking fluid.
3. Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease, caused by Coxsackie virus, is another infectious disease that is spread through open sores in the mouth. This infection is common in kids, especially those in daycare or preschool settings. It spreads primarily via the fecal-oral route, a common problem among daycares, since changing of diapers goes on all day.
4. Strep Throat
“Strep” bacteria are highly contagious, and they spread through airborne droplets. This means that tiny droplets containing the bacteria are released into the air when someone with strep breathes, coughs, kisses someone or sneezes.
To prevent transmission of periodontitis between family members or intimate partners, it is important to follow proper dental care and oral hygiene techniques that include daily brushing and flossing and to see a dental care provider routinely and possibly a Periodontist for professional cleanings and examinations.
Now, the good news: Most people have natural defenses in their immune system that protect them from infection. However, if you do have gum issues, it is a good idea to avoid kissing infants and those with compromised immune systems (including people with chronic diseases) on the mouth, says Reynolds.
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And don’t let wet kisses scare you: In fact, bacteria are more likely to lurk in a dry mouth.
Even if your partner has gum disease, you don’t have to stop smooching. Just take extra effort to practice good oral hygiene, which of course includes regular brushing and flossing, and see your dentist every six months.