Why You And Your Partner Should Brush Your Teeth Before Locking Lips

A peck during a date-day stroll, a sweet smooch at dinner, a little lip-lock before parting ways for work — kissing is a nugget of physical affection so quick and PG-rated, you and your boo can do it (almost) anytime, anywhere. But for the sake of your dental health, maybe you shouldn't.


That's not to say you should stop kissing altogether. There are numerous benefits of smooching your partner, according to Healthline, including lower stress, a stronger emotional connection, and even pain relief. However, there's also a potential downside to kissing: If you haven't brushed your pearly whites before canoodling, you could give each other cavities.

To be clear, kissing alone probably won't give you tooth decay. Sugars and starches left on the teeth go on to form plaque, which can create cavities over time, per the Cleveland Clinic. So what does kissing have to do with it? It all comes down to the pesky bacteria that eat away at your teeth.

How can cavities be contagious through kissing?

Some evidence suggests that kissing could keep cavities at bay because salivation revs up when you're locking lips, which may help flush away food particles and other debris in the mouth (per Healthline). But what's in your (or your partner's) saliva can make all the difference. "Kissing for 10 seconds can exchange about 80 million bacteria and microorganisms," Dr. Tina Saw, a cosmetic dentist and the founder of the dental wellness test Oral Genome, shared with Insider. If one person suffers from poor dental hygiene, they'll likely have certain types of bacteria in the plaque and tartar in their mouth that are known to erode teeth, Dr. Saw explained. "This bad bacteria is then transferred when kissing, putting your partner at risk for dental problems."


As you might've guessed, some saliva typically needs to be involved to transmit cavity-causing bacteria between people, so closed-mouth pecks probably won't result in tooth decay. However, it's a good idea to watch out for the other seemingly innocuous ways you and your S.O. swap spit. "Sharing utensils or toothbrushes with someone with periodontal disease [also known as gum disease or periodontitis] can [also] introduce new bacteria to your oral environment," Dr. Sienna Palmer, a general and cosmetic dentist, told Shape.

Brush regularly (and encourage your partner to do the same)

If you or your boo already have cavities or think you may have cavities — look for bad breath, swelling, pain, or bleeding gums — the best way to treat them is by visiting a dentist, as per the Cleveland Clinic. Otherwise, keep cavity-causing bacteria under control by practicing good oral hygiene. "If both partners have impeccable hygiene — they brush two times a day, they floss at least once a day, they use alcohol-free mouthwash, or they see the dentist every six months — then usually the environment is not very favorable [for cavities] to be transferred from one partner to another," Dr. Wesam Shafee, a cosmetic dentist and the founder of Smile Care Dental Group, explained to USA Today. If you stay on top of your regular oral health routine, you don't necessarily have to brush before every makeout session, especially if you're not near a sink. Instead, sip some water or swish around mouthwash to keep your teeth and gums fresh, according to Medical News Today.


If you're already a teeth-brushing queen but your significant other slacks on their oral hygiene, speak up, but be careful not to shame or embarrass them. As Dr. Tina Saw suggested to Insider, "Talk to them gently about the subject and assist with developing a plan of good oral hygiene habits. Encourage them to eat healthy, exercise, and brush and floss with you."