Fresh breath is clearly number one on the before-you-kiss-someone mental checklist, right before chapstick. But, thinking about the details of oral health might… ruin the moment — especially if you’re asking yourself, “What if they’re one of those people who only brushes once a day?” Although we’re always concerned about fresh breath, most of us don’t consider how smooching itself can affect our smiles and everything that comes with them. As it turns out, kissing can have some interesting effects on your oral health — everything from your teeth, to your gums, to your breath. And just like those vows before kissing the bride, it’s both for better or for worse.
The pros of locking lips on the reg
The first pro to locking lips might seem a little obvious: kissing increases your saliva production, meaning that food particles and plaque will likely get washed away more quickly. And thank goodness, because you don’t want that doughnut you couldn’t resist after lunch ending up in somebody else’s mouth. Saliva is an important part of a healthy mouth. Not only does it keep your teeth spotless, but it also neutralizes harmful acids from citrus fruits and other foods. As an added bonus, saliva also helps with digestion, and even makes speaking easier by lubricating oral tissues. No one likes a super sloppy kiss, but when it comes to keeping your mouth healthy, there are benefits to your makeout sessions being a little wet (and maybe even steamy).
Another big plus for kissing is the exchange in bacteria, which aids your oral microbiome in improving your immune system. A 10-second kiss can introduce more than 80 million different bacteria to your partner, making for a pretty significant exchange of bugs. These bugs (they’re not really bugs) help build resistances to infections and diseases that can come later in life, and not just for your mouth. After all, especially for you and your significant other, sharing is caring.
The cons of swapping spit with your sweetheart
Of course, not all bacteria is good bacteria. If you’re sharing a smooch with a partner who has gum disease, they are transferring bacteria that can have a pretty bad effect on your own oral health. Some bacteria can also introduce acids into the mouth that contribute to building cavities, as well as bad breath. If you plan on kissing a new partner, cross your fingers in hopes that they have a healthy mouth. Otherwise, you could end up paying the price for their poor investment in hygiene.
Also, a big shocker: Kissing opens up the possibility of transferring diseases (like cold sores) that thrive in or near our mouths, which can be spread through saliva. This is totally obvious, but it’s particularly important to note if your partner hasn’t been putting in the effort to floss or brush well, which could lead to gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. These diseases can be contagious depending on the circumstances. As sexy as scarlet red lips are, swelling gums of the same shade aren’t.
How to kiss and keep your mouth healthy
So, how can you be ready for date-night or encounter at your friends’ pot-luck birthday party? The main answer is pretty simple: Brush regularly. Brushing your teeth twice a day reduces your risk of cavities and kills bacteria, contributing to a cleaner and healthier mouth. Flossing is also a big plus, as it gets hard to reach plaque and bacteria that is unwittingly exchanged with your partner. Whatever the case, before you go in for your next kiss, make sure you’ve take time to scrub away any reason for them to have second thoughts — after all, nothing’s sexier than great oral care, right?
As for who you’re kissing, you can always give them the subtle gift of good oral care or enamel-protecting sugar-free gum. Or, casually text this article to them and act like it was an accident. ;)