Burlingame Dental Arts in Portland, OR
Burlingame Dental Arts in Portland, OR

Kiss and Tell– How Our Relationships Effect Our Microbiomes

added on: September 10, 2019

According to an article published in Medical News Today, we may have more in common with our significant others than a shared love of stamp collections or silent films. Apparently, we may actually share a fraction of our microbiomes!

A quick microbiome tutorial:

As the highly educated patients of Burlingame Dental Arts are mostly likely already aware, our microbiome consists of the trillions of bacteria who call our bodies home. Most of these species also happen to be “environmentally conscious,” and perform valuable– even critical– functions that contribute to our body’s overall health.

In fact, one great example of microbiome function applies to oral health. For healthy teeth and gums, we rely in part on commensal bacteria living in our mouths to act as “guards” against pathogenic bacteria. Our “native” bacterial populations (and scientists estimate that our mouths contain, on average, 700 different species of bacteria) control the growth and spread of bacterial invaders by competing for food, space, or other living essentials.

What effects our microbiome?

Our microbiota is influenced by our age, our diet, the places we live– and, the individuals with whom we share our lives. In fact, according to a study performed at Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, we may exchange microbiota more frequently that we think with those around us– specifically, our romantic partners.

So… this brings us to kissing. The group of researchers from the Netherlands wanted to study how much of our microbiota we share when engaged in “intimate kissing,” which they define as being for at least 10 seconds and— OK, all the 10-year-olds reading this, feel free to be seriously grossed out by this part– requiring the exchange of saliva (EEEeeeeew!).

Shared moments lead to… shared microbiota!

According to the researchers, as many as 80 million bacteria are exchanged between two partners in the space of a 10-second kiss! Scientists note that couples who kiss frequently actually share a significant portion of oral microbiota, since they are constantly introducing it into each others’ mouths.

However, frequent kissing is necessary to maintain oral microbiome similarity. According to the research, native species of bacteria will restore the previous bacterial balance and do away with the newcomers– so, if you go on a long trip away from your sweetie, the two of you will be less similar (microbiotically speaking) when you return than when you left.

The one exception to this is for bacteria that colonize our tongues. While the salivary bacteria exchanged during a kiss enjoyed only transient inclusion into each partner’s microbiome, lingual bacteria– bacteria that live on our tongues– actually settled down and stayed there. Scientists own this difference to the variation in habitat and food needs of our respective oral bacteria.

But don’t kiss romance goodbye after reading this!

While some people may find the entire subject slightly off-putting, we at Burlingame Dental Arts believe that our microbiomes simply… bring us closer to those we love, in sometimes unexpected ways. Now that’s romance for you!

Would you like to learn more about how your microbiome contributes to your oral health? Talk bacteria with us at your next appointment at Burlingame Dental Arts, your Portland, OR dental clinic.

Photo Credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL) via Compfight cc

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