Forget Cooties, Kissing Can Give You Cavities

Posted: 04/21/2011 02:26 PM EDT

The next time you go on a date you might want to ask for dental records before that goodnight kiss. It's been found that cavities are contagious and can be passed by kissing or sharing food and utensils.

“Oftentimes, we will treat spouses that have similar types of cavities or patterns of cavities. Once we remove all of the decay, we seldom see reinfection of both spouses and this is one of the fundamental practices in our office,” said Sharde Harvey D.D.S.

It's still true that too much candy can lead to cavities but they can also be caused by lots of foods, particularly starchy and sticky kinds. Cavities, or tooth decay, occur when bacteria in your mouth feeds off of the leftover food bits between your teeth, causing acid. All the food, saliva, acid and germs make a filmy coating on your teeth called plaque, which can wear your teeth down and cause cavities.

The bottom line is you should be going to the dentist a minimum of every six months and only 27 percent of African-Americans do. Regular cleanings can help stop decay from turning into cavities and reduce the amount of the bacteria that causes cavities.

“In general, I believe dental care awareness and education have been limited for African-Americans and needs to be more available and accessible. Myths about dentistry such as root canals are very painful and you should get that tooth extracted instead of getting that root canal actually exist and need to be changed,” said Dr. Harvey.

Now before you cancel that date, like any other contagious condition, you can protect yourself:

Wash your mouth. If you already have a cavity you’ll have to get it filled, but if you catch the decay early the dentist can prescribe a heavy-duty mouth wash with chlorhexidine that can stop it in its tracks.

Blow bubbles. Not only does gum keep your breath fresh, but if you choose a brand that has the artificial sweetener xylitol, chew three times a day for five minutes or more, you’ll produce more saliva, which helps avoid bacteria.

Brush, stop, repeat. Try to brush after every meal, and don’t forget to floss. If you have a small child with teeth starting to peek out of their gums, clean their teeth using soft gauze until their teeth grow in completely.

Drink from the tap. You’ll save money and fight cavities at the same time because most tap water contains fluoride, which can help your teeth build a resistance to plaque.

(Photo:  FRISO GENTSCH/dpa/Landov)

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