Kissing: Can it affect your oral health?

The following information was in an article by Dr Thomas Peltzer in Dentaltown magazine.  I thought it was interesting and decided to pass it on.

Kissing can transmit a small number of disease-causing bacteria and viruses.  Some of these diseases are more easily spread through kissing than others.  How healthy your mouth is plays an important role in just how significant this problem may be.

Upper respiratory tract infections like colds are easily spread through a kiss.  Many different viruses are responsible for causing the common cold and you can catch the infections from airborne droplets or from direct contact with another person’s fluids.

Glandular fever, also known as the kissing disease, is the common term for infectious mononucleosis.  This virus is spread through saliva.  The probability of contracting one of these viruses is dependent on the health of your immune system.

More serious virus transmissions include Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV).  This is one of eight herpes viruses known to infect humans.  It commonly causes chicken pox cold sores and shingles.  These viruses can be spread through kissing and are most easily spread when blisters are forming or have erupted.  Even healing lesions can still spread the virus.

Hepatitis B is another virus that can be transmitted through kissing under certain conditions.  Infection can be transferred when infected blood from bleeding gums comes in contact with someone else’s blood stream.  Warts in the mouth (human papillomavirus) can also be spread through kissing.

Meningitis is a potentially life-threatening disease that causes inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord.  These bacteria can be spread through direct contact like kissing.

Periodontal disease (gum infection) can be transmitted through saliva.  This is why we screen all family members if we diagnose someone with periodontal disease.  We also know that the bacteria that cause tooth decay are not found in newborn babies.  Babies acquire these bacteria through kisses, shared utensils and direct contacts with adults such as placing a pacifier in your mouth and then baby’s.

For the romantics among us, all is not lost.  In a healthy mouth, saliva contains substances that fight bacteria, viruses and fungi.  Kissing increases the flow of saliva, which helps to keep the mouth, teeth and gums healthy.  Around 80% of the bacteria in saliva are common to everyone.  The other 20% are unique to you.  The exchange of saliva in kissing stimulates your immune system to create antibodies to the foreign bacteria and that helps you fight infection.

To reduce your risk, avoid kissing when you or the other person is sick.  Avoid kissing when active cold sores, warts or ulcers are present in or around the mouth.  Maintain good oral hygiene and visit the dentist regularly.  Finally, see your doctor about immunizations.  Vaccines are available to prevent chickenpox, hepatitis B and some meningococcal infections.

Finally, don’t over look the emotional benefits of kissing.  Mental and physical health are strongly tied to emotional well being.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Bruce