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Can Kissing Make You Sick?

Can you get gum disease from kissing? Unfortunately, you can get the bad bacteria that cause dental problems from your family members. But with the right oral hygiene habits, you shouldn't worry about kissing a partner with periodontitis.

Look at any medical profession, and you’re bound to find a slew of misconceptions. Particularly about specific diseases. American dental care, in particular, is slathered with them. For instance, not many might know how babies get tooth decay. (Hint: they get it from someone close to them.) Or where the worst cavities form. (Usually, it’s in places the eye can’t see.) One particular query, however, might send a lot of heads scratching. Can you get gum disease from kissing?

Of course, it can be strange to think about. Kissing, after all, seems like something reserved for significant others and the like. But for some people, it’s a gesture used with family members and friends, usually a pocket of affection for the people we value. In a way, it’s inevitable, so it’s fair game to take the necessary precautions in regards to your dental health and overall health.

While you might not be kissing someone with gum disease any time soon, there’s no harm in getting yourself prepared. So is gingivitis contagious through kissing? Let’s find out.

It’s the bacteria that cause gum disease that gets transferred.

So can you get gum disease from kissing? Well, not directly. Just because your partner has periodontitis doesn’t mean you’ll get gum disease right away. And unlike other infectious diseases, there’s no incubation period from the moment saliva transfer occurs. But when you do kiss, you do increase your chances of getting some form of gum disease.  

Why is this so? When your family member or partner has gum disease, their poor oral hygiene habits exacerbated the bad bacteria they already have. These bacteria, in turn, are what caused their dental problems. And when someone has a concentrated amount of bacteria that cause gum disease in their mouth, the higher chances they have for transmitting it to another person.

But there’s good news to be had here. Just because you kiss someone with a form of gum disease doesn’t mean you’re sure to contract it. With good oral hygiene habits, these dental problems become preventable in the first place. Brushing and flossing is your first line of defense. When you do this, you counteract any harmful bacteria build-up that might occur during the day. And when you do this often, you could mitigate their numbers day by day.

So if your partner has periodontitis or gingivitis, a little kiss shouldn’t hurt. Whether you’d want to kiss them, on the other hand, is another case entirely. 

How are harmful oral bacteria transmitted?

Before we answer whether you can get gum disease from kissing, let’s first see which dental problems can be transmitted. 

For one, the harmful bacteria that cause tooth decay can be transmitted through family members. Babies, in particular, are very vulnerable to this transmission. When a family member, especially mothers, have a history of poor oral hygiene habits, they accumulate the bad bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay. And these bacteria can linger in their saliva. When saliva transfer occurs—either through shared eating implements or through kissing—these bacteria, in turn, get transferred. When they remain in the mouth for too long, that’s when tooth decay and dental problems occur. 

How are oral health problems transmitted?

Airborne Spread

Germs from the throat and nose can linger in the air for a long period of time due to their small composition. These are referred to as droplet nuclei and can be directly inhaled by another individual.

Droplet Spread

Droplets from the throat and nose (e.g., from sneezing) typically travel a distance of one meter before dropping onto a surface. Infection emerges when a person comes in contact with the object or surface containing these droplets and then touch their nose, eyes, or mouth. Infection or illness from droplets can also be spread via inhalation.

Contact Spread

A few ailments can transfer directly from one person to another through direct contact. For instance, this might include kissing, hugging, or being within close quarters of the sick person or the objects they encounter.

Below are some of the viruses that can transfer through kissing:

Glandular Fever

This is the general term for a viral infection is infectious mononucleosis. Glandular fever is usually a result of the virus Epstein-Barr. Specifically, the virus can transfer through saliva.


Also known as upper respiratory tract infections, colds often start with a virus. Thus, one can contact a cold through the exposure of the relevant virus via direct contact with someone else’s mucous, fluids, or airborne droplets.

Warts or acne

Warts or acne in or around the mouth can transfer via kissing. This is especially true it a wart or pimple is wounded. Blood, oil, pus, or bacteria or are typically to blame for this transfer. Receiving topical treatment might be necessary in some cases.

Hepatitis B

A person is more prone to Hepatitis B if open sores in or around the mouth are present as they kiss an individual with the infection.

Herpes infection

This virus can be spread through direct contact and when blisters are forming or when they have erupted.

What should one do to prevent infection while kissing?

One can do several things to minimize the risk of catching or passing an infection while kissing his/her partner.

Consider the following:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene.
  • Avoid kissing when you or your partner are sick.
  • Refrain from kissing anyone on the lips if they have warts, acne, cold sores, or ulcers in or around the mouth.
  • It is advisable to visit your doctor and discuss vaccinations. Vaccinations are available to prevent infectious ailments like group C meningococcal infection, hepatitis B, and chickenpox. Dentists and orthodontists also usually have creams or ointments for cold sores and oral cuts. If they don’t have the latter on hand, ask for possible recommendations.

All in all, it is imperative to consider the latter tips regarding practicing good oral and physical health. While it can be alarming what the spread of viruses and bacteria can do, it doesn’t mean you have to stop kissing others altogether. Instead, this is a call to action to prevent yourself and others from getting sick via the correct means.

That said, with more knowledge in your cognitive database and more steps toward maintaining good oral health…kiss away with caution!


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