Get ready to catch some cooties. Well, bacteria to be specific. As unnatural as it may seem to talk about our symbiotic relationship with billions of different types of bacteria, it is a natural part of our everyday lives. And little did you know, we have been in the business of trading bacteria since the day we were born. Whether an individual is born through c section or vaginally, babies are born with a match of their mothers’ microbiome. Our bacteria is constantly changing and interacting with the bacteria around us. Each unique microbial community varies constantly based on your genetics, diet, age, environment and sexual behavior. In fact, in families or relationships that have high touch percentages (sharing food, hugging, etc.) there is a substantial shared collection of bacteria between them.
Although babies start with their mothers’ microbiome, as they grow the microbiome eventually evolves as it is influenced by what they eat, whether or not they have had antibiotics and who they come in contact with. One of the ways we come in contact with others and swap bacteria is when we kiss. Research shows that one ten-second french kiss can transfer on average eighty million bacteria. Some of that bacteria may only reside temporarily but other bacteria, depending on colonization, can be a permanent swap.
Now don’t stop tonguing just yet. The risk of exposure to other bacteria may seem negative at first. However, there are positives to swapping bacteria. First, that exposure might actually help build up resistance against other types of bacteria. And secondly, having high diversity of bacteria in your mouth has many proven health benefits. However, it is important to recognize that a healthy transfer of bacteria depends on your snogging partner’s oral microbial colonies and if they have good bacteria to transfer to you. Although overall, kissing for the sake of bacteria transfers is healthy. Just another reason to get some sugar (and not the processed and refined kind).