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Have you ever kissed someone "Goodbye" or "Good morning" and wondered right away if you would get an infection? If no, then good! However, be mindful that there are some diseases that are transmitted through kissing, and therefore oral hygiene is crucial.

Nobody ever said you shouldn’t get involved in romance, but hey… While you do so, just keep in mind those few diseases that you can catch just from kissing. Would that kill the mood?

Natural Defenses Found in the Oral Cavity

Hold on a second there: did I scare you, I didn’t mean to. The truth is, our oral cavity is made of natural defenses that prevent us from developing bacterial infections every time our mouths go through a little change (acidity, pH, etc.)

Saliva itself, the principal fluid in our oral cavity, it has some cleansing properties.

It is secreted literally every second and helps in cleansing and flushing away all bacteria and unwanted debris. It is also made of antibodies as well as antimicrobial proteins (such as lysozymes) which ensure quick and effective digestion of microbial products to prevent oral infections. Finally, like most organs in our body (except for the brain), the oral cavity has an ensemble of bacteria that constitute the normal flora of the mouth. They work together to keep a balanced environment in the mouth, protecting it from the overgrowth of unwanted pathogens.

However, when our immune system is weak, the oral cavity is at risk. And even if our immune system is not particularly affected, there are some pathogens that are just so peculiar that they can infect us at the first contact.

Infectious Mononucleosis: A Kissing Disease

The medical name for “Kissing disease” is infectious mononucleosis. And literally, as its colloquial name explains, it is transmitted through one medium: kissing. Infectious mononucleosis (or “infectious mono”) is caused by a virus, the Ebstein-Barr Virus which is a peculiar virus in the sense that it attacks mostylt he monocytes (hence the name “mononucleosis”). In this disease, there is a net increase in the number of activated monocytes. The virus is transmitted through saliva and particularly adheres to the oral epithelium because of the affinity of its receptors to the epithelium of the oral mucosa. An individual infected with kissing disease presents with fever, cervical lymphadenopathy, fatigue, as well as liver and spleen enlargement. A high index of suspicion (alongside with blood lab works) help to make a diagnosis. Additionally, the disease tends to be more common in young college students.

Herpes Simplex Virus

There are two types of Herpes Simplex Viruses: the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV1) and the Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV 2).  The first virus causes diseases that are localized to the mouth: stomatitis, oral herpetic ulcers, etc.

The flares usually appear in times of stress: work-related, emotional stress, diseases, climate and temperature changes, severe fatigue, etc.

When the ulcers are present, the person is infectious. Therefore, all mouth to mouth or mouth to cheek contacts should absolutely be avoided. The second virus, HSV2, is the one responsible for sexually transmitted diseases and genital infections. For those who are involved in oral sexual practices, the virus can be easily transmitted from the genital tract to the oral cavity, therefore leading to a HSV2 infection in the mouth. Lesions on the fingers can also appear. Therefore, the rule when dealing with herpetic sores is to avoid all contacts with secretions while the sores are present and until they disappear, because the presence of sores is synonym with infectivity.

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