Kissing is a very pleasurable pastime. We kiss our children, our pets and our significant others. But do we really know what’s lurking beyond those pearly whites? Your mouth contains BILLIONS of bacteria, and if you haven’t brushed your teeth lately you may have more bacteria in your mouth than there are people on Earth! Most of the bacteria in your mouth are part of a sticky film on your teeth known as plaque, which is what provides that furry feeling on your teeth upon awakening and causes periodontal disease.
Even if your smile looks healthy, there’s a good chance you have gum disease, (otherwise known as periodontal disease). As much as 85 percent of the adult population has some level of periodontal disease, according to current scientific research. Periodontal disease is the most common chronic infection on the planet. It is considered an infectious disease, which is easily spread within families and close circles of friends. And a kiss can exchange up to 80 million bacteria. It might sound like a schoolyard joke that you can get “cooties” from kissing, but let’s be perfectly clear on this one: You can get gum disease from kissing, or even by sharing a drink or utensil.
We now know that the bacteria causing gum disease can also spread from your mouth to the rest of your body through your bloodstream and increase your risk for systemic disease. Research has shown links between gum disease and premature birth, as well as other complications during pregnancy. Periodontal disease can worsen diabetes and increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes by 500%! Periodontal disease is also a contributing factor in lung and kidney diseases and has been implicated multiple cancers, as well as Alzheimer’s disease. In essence, periodontal disease can be life threatening according to The American Academy of Periodontology.
Tips to protect you from periodontal disease:
- Gum disease IS transmissible which means contagious and can be spread from person to person. Don’t share toothbrushes, water bottles or eating utensils with anyone.
- Bleeding gums are NOT NORMAL – healthy gums do not bleed when brushing or flossing and rarely during your dental cleanings. Bleeding is a sign of infection and should be dealt with by your dental professional as soon as possible!
- Both humans and dogs have mouths that are full of bacteria, and both contain roughly the same number of bacteria. But there are more than 100 different germs in dog saliva that can make humans sick. Don’t let your dogs lick you in the face! (And don’t share your ice cream cone with them- GROSS!)
- If you drop food on the floor it starts to pick up germs from the moment it hits the floor whether you pick it up within 5 seconds or 5 minutes. If it falls on the floor, throw it away!
- Stay away from cosmetic counters: The Today Show cultured lipstick testers from leading department stores. They found E Coli as well as Strep, Staph and others growing on all items tested. Run, don’t walk away from cosmetic testers!
- Home care should include FBI and T: Floss first, then Brush for 2 minutes, Irrigate with an antiseptic and lastly use a Tongue scrapper to remove any remaining bacteria on the tongue. (think of your tongue like a sponge – it harbors all kinds of bacteria!)
- Nutrition matters for your teeth: Green tea has been associated with healthier gums and lower odds of tooth loss. Antioxidants help to reduce inflammation and bolster the immune system and help to prevent gum disease. Decreasing sugar or sugar producing food (think highly processed food-like products) will help decrease the incidence of tooth decay.
- Keeping your toothbrush in a closed container creates an ideal moist environment for the growth of bacteria. Rinse your toothbrush with tap water or mouthwash after you use it, then let it air-dry. This applies for retainers or other dental devices that you put in your mouth.
- You should replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, sooner if the bristles are frayed.
- While some bacteria are bad for your teeth and gums, others are critical to keeping you healthy. In fact, some helpful organisms in your mouth secrete substances that kill bad bacteria and some start the digestive process by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. You don’t want a sterile mouth, you just want to promote a balance of healthy bacteria by practicing good oral hygiene and seeing your dental professional at least 2 times a year.
Is it time for your next dental visit? Your health – your life –may depend on it. Call the dental office of your choice today. Make sure your smile is “Certified Kissable.”