All the kids are on TikTok, they say. TikTok has emerged as an immensely popular social network that relies on short-form user videos that span genres such as pranks, stunts, tricks, jokes, dance, entertainment, and even attempts at promoting social justice. The clips generally come in. at between 5 seconds and 10 minutes. Why are we mentioning this? Well. one video by user @tasneemmahmoodd, which boasts over a million views, floated a question about whether one could “catch cavities” by kissing his or her partner. To some, the idea of contagious cavities might sound like conspiratorial satire – a wicked nod to attitudes that arose during our pandemic era. Dentists, however, say it’s not that absurd a notion. In fact, it’s entirely possible that making out could make for potential dental issues.
Can Locking Lips Lock in Dental Problems?
Close oral contact and sharing saliva are often culprits in spreading viruses. Recent studies indicate that dental decay is also a communicable disease, capable of being transmitted from one person to another.
Dr. Lindzy Goodman, director of House Call Dentists, stated, “Studies reveal that bacteria in the oral cavity causing dental decay can be transmitted through close contact such as kissing. This is the same bacteria that feeds on sugar creating an acid product, eroding dental enamel and causing decay.”
Goodman also explained that transmission can occur outside of the romantic realm. For instance, “vertical transmission” can take place between parent and child. A parent with high oral mutans streptococci, the main bacterial culprit of dental decay, will have children with a higher oral bacteria load.
To be clear, the act of kissing does not directly cause cavities. Bacteria represents the leading factor that contributes to the formation of cavities. Through oral contact, bacteria are easily transmitted from person to person. Yet while cavities may be considered communicable in this context, prevention is key.
An Ounce of Prevention Is Still Excellent Advice
Whether cavities manifest from dietary choices, infrequent brushing, or even good old-fashioned osculation (kissing to scientists), maintaining regular oral hygiene habits is the best method for mitigating dental health risks. That means:
- Brushing at least two times a day
- Flossing at least once a day
- Using alcohol-free mouthwash
- Cleaning your tongue during brushing
- Visiting the dentist every six months
Many people, prior to diving in for a kiss, pop a breath mint or chew some gum. The latter is actually decent advice. Sugar-free gum, the kind that relies on a sweetener called xylitol, can reduce bacteria in the mouth. One study found that chewing xylitol-sweetened gum reduced the amount of bad bacteria in the mouth by up to 75% (“Effect of xylitol on cariogenic and beneficial oral streptococci: a randomized, double-blind crossover trial,” Bahador, Leslan and Kashi, Iranian Journal of Microbiology, 2012 Jun; 4(2): 75–81). In 2012, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago also discovered that Big Red – a popular cinnamon-flavored chewing gum made by Wrigley’s – reduced bacteria in the mouth.
Several other biomedical studies have also credited chewing gum with alleviating stress. As we wrote in April, elevated stress levels in society have led to increases in bruxism, or teeth grinding.
Healthy Habits, Healthy Mouth, Healthy Love Life
Taking care of your mouth is essential to your overall health. Oral hygiene is also a make-or-break factor in how far that budding romance may go. Hitting the gym, dressing well, and planning the perfect date will open a door. However, a mouth brimming with bacteria could slam it shut. Spring is the season of love and new beginnings. How about making it the start of a new focus on oral health?