Clean Break

Is your mouth kiss worthy?

When you kiss, according to a song popular in the ’70s, “you get enough germs to catch pneumonia.” But is that true?

Millions of bacteria can be exchanged in a smooch. While this can actually improve the diversity of the oral microbiome and boost your immune system, there are times when caution is needed. “If you’re sick, if you have a cold or a fever, that’s not a good time to kiss,” says Ann Bruhn, associate professor and chair at Old Dominion University’s School of Dental Hygiene. She recommends a kiss-free window of 24 hours following illness, along with replacing the toothbrush, to avoid passing along harmful bacteria. 

But daily brushing and flossing, regular professional cleanings, and taking care of needed dental procedures are also critical. When cavities are left untreated, the mouth can become rife with Streptococcus—which is transferable through kissing. “People are shocked to learn that they can actually catch the primary bacteria that causes cavities,” she says. ODU.edu

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