Your dirty little mouth: Every hot kiss swaps 80 million bacteria

November 21, 2014 Originally published on SFGate

Science! Aren’t you wonderful? Thank you for roughly guesstimating, in this recent study published in the open journal Microbiota, that about 80 million bacteria dance like feral angels between tongue-tangled mouths in your average 10-second lip-lock, which is equal parts interesting and ridiculous and which naturally prompted at least one sorority-grade news blogger to issue a great big “Ew” in her two paragraph write-up, because, like, right?

Let’s just say it outright: 80 million is child’s play. A joke. For babies.

Don’t you already know? On a purely bacterial level, a real kiss, with appropriate levels of saliva, tequila and messy intent, should easily nail a billion. Throw in a hot tub and a full moon, and you’re easily topping six billion and change, a veritable bacteria orgy, not even counting all the righteous enlightenment that get swapped down below.

What, too crude? Hardly. This is science, darling, and it’s worth remembering at this very moment that your body is home to some 10 trillion microorganisms, with your hot little mouth alone housing 700 varieties of bacteria; 80 million, in the grand scheme, is but a speck.

Bacteria! You’re a damnable megafactory of the stuff, by the way, a constant, mind-blowing micro-scale churn of swarming, leaping, squiggling life, death and rebirth going on every moment of every second of every eyeblink and in the time it took you to read this paragraph, 10,000 skin cells just sloughed off your face and landed in your coffee. Isn’t life grand?



Ah, but if we read past the study’s viral-ready headline and germophobe quotient, we find something just a little more fascinating, curious, and yet also utterly useless to understanding of daily existence. Science!

Turns out that the more a couple kisses, the more similar their oral microbiota become. Weird! Obvious!

“On average it was found that at least nine intimate kisses per day led to couples having significantly shared salivary microbiota,” the researchers reported, which was quickly followed by, one presumes, one big shrug as to the meaning of it all, but which might or might not explain the annoying habit enjoyed by long-term couples of finishing each others’ sentences, or why you might, after long bouts of tongue wrangling, begin to taste each other throughout your day. Mmm, romance.

More curious still? Humans remain the only species on the planet that regularly enjoy full oral contact, and the bacteria-swapping thing is thought to play some sort of important role. Maybe. Who knows. Either that, or it’s because the right person, fully and rightly kissed, tastes quite exactly like God.

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Mark Morford

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