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Holiday tradition or dental health nightmare?
Updated: 12/23/2008 6:00:11 PM

Kissing under a mistletoe may lead to gum disease While many see two people embracing under the mistletoe as a heartwarming tradition, others are warning of the more than 500 different species of germs that may be swapped during the process, which can eradicate years of dental care.

One of those germs can cause gum disease, prompting the Academy of General Dentistry (ADG) to issue a warning to holiday revelers about the consequences of engaging in the annual tradition, seen by many as a symbol of love and friendship.

"With just one kiss, this infection can be passed between couples and even to children," said Lawrence Bailey, spokesman for the ADG.

Gum disease is a major cause of approximately 70 percent of adult tooth loss and is easily transmissible through mouth-to-mouth contact. Recently, it was also reported there may be a link between gum disease and an increased risk of heart disease.

The doctor suggests people with gum disease refrain from the holiday tradition and people who suspect they may have the condition, get dental care as soon as possible. Some symptoms of gum disease are chronic bad breath, tender gums, and bleeding while flossing.

Kissing under a mistletoe is an old Scandinavian tradition when the plant was seen as a symbol of peace.

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