Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Swapping more than spit - the true intimacy of French kissing

We as humans have a strong need to share our worlds with our sweethearts - oh to be understood and feel that sense of belonging and togetherness with our loved ones.

It turns out that a few good kisses really do the trick.

A new study from the scientific journal Microbiome (no, not Us magazine) found that when you intimately kiss your partner (10 seconds, tongue has to participate), you exchange some 80 million bacteria with each other, along with all that passion.

Most of the exchange happens among the bacteria in our saliva, while the composition of bacteria on the tongue of apparently doesn't change much.  Still.


Remember that we each are home to a whole world of [100 trillion!] other micro-critters, which outnumber our own cells by up to 10:1.

There's high species diversity in a rainforest, and in your mouth!
image: Edible Plants Vietnam
And with their dark spaces, steamy temperatures, and superlative humidity our mouths are like the rainforests of our bodies, hosting over 600 different species of bacteria.

Some of these bacteria in our mouths cause the two most common human bacterial diseases: dental caries/cavities (tooth decay) and gum diseases, which is why brushing and flossing our teeth is so important.

Many other bacteria species are benign, and still others actually help by producing chemicals that are toxic to pathogens.

Gotta take the good with the bad, I suppose, and really, we don't have a choice.  Unless we smoke or drink heavily, which apparently messes up the whole system.


Special bond


Since each of us has a different combination of upbringing, environment, diet, and other health issues, we each host a unique community of oral bacteria.  They are our calling card, like a fingerprint, and even reflect our ethnicity.

Yet apparently, we can share that identity with our beloved too: this same study also found that partners who kiss each other deeply and frequently (at least nine times a day) share similar communities of oral bacteria – Thank you, oh beloved partner, for sharing yours!  This might not be terrible, as exposure to a variety of bacteria may help our overall resistance to infection, so here's a how-to, just in case!

The authors add that the similarity in mainly tongue microbiota could be due to living together and sharing many household items, as well as all that mad passionate kissing. Nevertheless, they did find that the more frequently a couple kissed, the more similar their mouth bacteria communities were.  His and hers.

Yes, I am a stud.
At least I think so!
Here is the paper in the journal Microbiome.  You might enjoy this last finding, regarding the number of intimate kisses per day reported by the man and woman of each of the 21 couples who participated.

Say the authors: "Strikingly, 74% of the men reported higher intimate kiss frequencies than the women of the same couple, resulting in a male average of 10 and a female average of five intimate kisses per day.

This probably results from male over-reporting, as previously noted in an analysis of self-reports on sexual behavior, including number of partners and frequency of intercourse, in particular among unmarried couples."

If true, are men more optimistic or more dishonest about their love lives than women? Or are they secretly looking to support a more diverse mouth microbe community?


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