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Mistletoe Kisses: Spreading More Than Holiday Tidings

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Exchanging kisses underneath the mistletoe may leave holiday revelers with more than just friendship and goodwill tidings. Passionate partygoers may swap up to 500 different species of germs, including those that cause gum disease, warns the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education.

"With just one kiss, this infection can be passed between couples and even to children," says AGD spokesperson, Lawrence Bailey, DDS, FAGD.

Gum disease, a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissues, is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss, affects three out of four persons at some point in their life and is easily transmissible though mouth-to-mouth contact.

In recent years, researchers have found a possible connection between gum disease and coronary vascular disease, which can place people at risk for heart attacks and strokes. In individuals with diabetes, gum disease is associated with poor control of insulin levels. Pregnant women also need to be careful; gum disease can place pregnant women at risk for having low-birth weight babies.

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Although the pagan significance of kissing under the mistletoe has long been forgotten, the custom remains a desirable decoration and is still found in many countries. Kisses are exchanged under this plant at any time during the holiday season.

"In the spirit of the season, folks with gum disease should refrain from kissing under the mistletoe," says Dr. Bailey. "However, if there are some concerns that gum disease may already be present, a visit to your general dentist is important to detect the disease early and treat it in its early stages."

Are you a candidate for gum disease?

Check for the following signs, advises Dr. Bailey:

* Red, swollen or tender gums
* Bleeding while brushing or flossing
* Gums that pull away from teeth
* Loose or separating teeth
* Persistent bad breath
* Change in the way teeth fit together when the patient bites
* Change in the fit of partial dentures