Dog Kisses

I’m a little obsessive when it comes to my teeth. Forgoing orthodontics as a teen in exchange for assistance with purchasing my first car, I spent my young adulthood with a smile I abhorred. Fed up at 35 with my decidedly un-photogenic gob, I committed to adult braces. Two years later, my teeth emerged triumphant—straight as fence posts, attractively spaced, glistening and gleaming. I’m determined to keep them that way, even though that means wearing retainers every single night (still doing it two years later) and brushing like a maniac.

On the downside, I go through a lot of dental floss—so much that I should buy stock in the stuff. On the upside, my gums are healthier than ever. But, of course, I’m not a dog kisser, either. Apparently, kissing your dog can lead to gum disease—at least according to Japanese researchers.

These intrepid investigators scraped plaque off the teeth of 66 dogs and 81 human subjects at an animal clinic and canine obedience school. Then they took their samples to the lab. What did they find? Not surprisingly, the dogs’ mouths were full of bacteria—they eat stuff they find on the ground (doodie included), lick their backsides and are notorious at failing to brush regularly after all.

However, what was rather surprising was the type of bacteria. Researchers discovered tiny terrors like Porphyromonas gulae, Tannerella forsythia, and Campylobacter rectus—all bacteria that dentists have determined cause gum disease in human beings.

The Japanese research suggests that periodontopathic species can be transmitted between dogs and humans. What does this mean for the canine-human smooch fests so common in dog-loving households? You should probably give them the kiss-off.

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