Valentine’s Day is definitely a holiday of the warm fuzzies. Surrounded by symbols of hearts, roses, and cupids, awash in the color pink, it invites thoughts of romance and love. It is not, in general, a frightening holiday. So, if you try to think about dangers to your oral health lurking in the sweetness of Valentine’s Day, you’re likely to hit upon the giant boxes of chocolates and the sweetly messaged heart-shaped sugar tablets that accompany cupid on his February flight. While it’s true that munching on sugar all day long is less than ideal for your oral health, a different Valentine’s Day activity may be putting your perfect oral health at risk without you even giving it a second thought—your Valentine’s Day kiss. When you kiss, you’re potentially sharing more than romantic feelings; you could be sharing cavity risk factors.
Cavities, properly called dental caries, are in fact a communicable disease. There are several strains of bacteria known to contribute to cavity formation. And, it is possible to pass those bacteria from person to person. Studies have looked at mothers and babies to see if babies, born without bacteria, are colonized with bacteria present in their mother’s mouths. Simple behaviors like sharing food, sharing utensils, and kissing baby on the mouth have been shown to pass cavity-causing bacteria from mom to baby. Other research has found that unrelated young children in schools can pass bacteria along through shared utensils, etc. Any activity that exchanges saliva can pass along bacteria and the cavities they cause as well. Kissing is such an activity.
But I Want My Valentine’s Smooch…
Absolutely. Knowing a risk factor allows you to control for it. It’s time to think of kissing as an activity that, like eating, requires attention to your oral health. If you’re kissing someone with active caries lesions, consider taking a minute to brush your teeth or use an antibacterial oral rinse regularly. Maintain your oral care routine, keeping your preventative routine in top shape to keep your teeth in top shape.
Perhaps the most loving gift you could consider for your significant other is good oral health. If you have been struggling with dental caries, visit your CAMBRA dentist and develop a plan to treat the causes of your condition. If your partner is suffering, take them for an appointment and build your good oral care routine as part of a team. Although treating caries may not seem romantic at first, caring enough about each other to want each other to be healthy is about as sweet as can be, sweeter even than that giant heart-shaped box of chocolates.