Cavities can be contagious through kissing and close contact, dentists say
You’ve just finished your nightly routine of brushing and flossing, but your partner – who slacks off on regular dental care – jumps into bed and tries to give you a big kiss. Can kissing cause cavities?
A TikTok with 1.2 million views posted by user @tasneemmahmoodd prompted this question. The video reads, “Thinking about the kiss I gave my husband even though he has cavities…and that’s because cavities are contagious.”
So, can lip locking lead to dental issues like cavities? Experts say it’s possible, but there are prevention methods to keep you from worrying too much.
“There’s some truth to that,” says Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer, dentist and clinical director of SmileDirectClub. “What we’ve discovered in recent studies is that cavities or tooth decay is actually a communicable disease, meaning it can be passed from person to person through close contact. “
He adds that close contact can include kissing, sharing saliva and close contact with the mouth. For example, not just kissing a loving partner, but close contact between mother and child such as snuggling or rubbing cheeks or noses together.
“That close contact can convey the possibility of having a cavity,” he says.
How is it possible? Because bacteria cause cavities and can be passed from person to person, says dentist Dr. Amanda Lewis.
But, there is good news. You can still fight tooth decay with good oral hygiene, which reduces “a lot of risk,” Lewis says. Also, some people are more susceptible to this bacteria than others.
“Is it transmissible? Yes, but like everything…if you’re healthy and your mouth is healthy, you’re much less likely to get it”. Or whatever you contract, your body is able to fight it off,” Lewis says.
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How to prevent cavities from kissing?
Dentists agree that maintaining good oral and dental hygiene is key to preventing cavities.
“If both partners have impeccable hygiene – they brush their teeth twice a day, they floss at least once a day, they use an alcohol-free mouthwash or they see the dentist every six months – so generally the environment is not very favorable to be transferred from one partner to another,” explains Dr. Wesam Shafee, cosmetic dentist and founder of Smile Care Dental Group.
Besides brushing your teeth well, Sulitzer says don’t forget to clean your tongue. And if you’re not near a toothbrush, another tip is to chew gum. Not that sugar-filled stuff, but gum that uses a sweetener called “xylitol.”
“It actually breaks down person-to-person communication about dental caries,” says Sulitzer.
For new mothers looking to prevent the transfer of bacteria or cavities to young children, Shafee advises against kissing your child on the mouth and not putting a baby’s utensil or pacifier in your mouth.
“Sometimes the mother wants to test the food and try it if it’s too hot or if it’s too cold and then the same spoon is transferred to the child… (or) the pacifier falls on the floor and some parents will suck it, supposedly to clean it of germs, and then they will put it in the child’s mouth,” he says, advising the two against it.
Following these suggestions can help keep your mouth healthy without saying goodbye.
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