In what sounds like an elementary school playground rumor, a TikTok dentist has warned her followers that cavities can spread by kissing.
Dr. Tasneem Mahmood’s now-viral TikTok, which has racked up over a million views, had shocked viewers questioning whether cavities are actually contagious. “Thinking about the kiss I gave my husband even though he has cavities,” Mahmood wrote in the video. “And that’s on cavities being contagious,” she continued in the caption.
While the video’s comments filled with skeptics and disbelief, the short answer is yes, cavities can spread from person to person via close oral contact like kissing. A number of other dentists and dental organizations online confirm Mahmood’s warning, explaining that cavity-causing bacteria can easily spread via close contact or sharing eating utensils.
“Everyone knows that you can catch a cold or the flu from another person, but researchers have found that not only is it possible to catch a cavity, but it happens frequently,” reads a post on the subject from Tompkins Dental in Ithaca, New York. “Just as a cold virus can be passed from one person to the next, so can cavity-causing bacteria.” While the post notes that babies and children are particularly vulnerable to catching bad oral bacteria from others, adults can also pick up cavity-causing germs from sharing food and utensils, sneezing and, yes, kissing.
While Mahmood’s video bred plenty of skeptics, several commenters revealed they suspected they’d contracted cavities from their partners. “Not me being fine for 10 years, getting a bf and then getting 8 cavities in a year,” wrote one user, while another claimed they had “zero cavities” until they met their husband.
Fortunately, Mahmood assured unsettled viewers that they don’t need to give up kissing. “I’m not trying to get in the way of your smooches!” she replied to one grossed-out commenter who vowed to write off kissing for good. “Just make sure you floss, brush and rinse with mouthwash after!”
So, the main takeaways here are: oral hygiene matters both before and after kissing, and, once again, the state of your mouth might be giving your dentist some unsolicited insight into what kinds of intimate activities you’ve been getting up to lately.