Dental Hygiene and the Kissing Disease

Some patients occasionally ask questions about the “kissing disease” or as it’s more commonly known, ‘glandular fever’.

Strictly speaking, this is more of a subject for a physician but as dental hygiene is often brought up in this context, we thought we’d say a few words.

The technical name for glandular fever is ‘infectious mononucleosis. That’s something of a tongue-twister, so it’s often abbreviated to ‘mono’.

The culprit in most cases is the Epstein-Barr virus (about 90% of cases) or Cytomegalovirus. These both sound exotic but they’re in fact both part of the very familiar Herpes virus family and amongst some of the commonest viruses around.

In younger children and adults in good health, infection usually results in no or very mild symptoms. However, in adolescents and younger adults, for reasons that aren’t fully understood, the infection can result in symptoms such as several fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, flu-like conditions and so on. These can go on for some weeks or months, though they are rarely a serious threat to health.

So, why is this known as ‘kissing disease?’

These viruses can be and often are, transmitted between people in the act of kissing. They’re present in the saliva and as it’s often in adolescence and young adulthood that people start to experiment with kissing and with multiple partners, then one of the virus’s main transmission channels is clear.

What does this have to do with dental hygiene?

Well, no local dentist, Brisbane or elsewhere, is likely to be very successful in efforts to try and stop young people kissing each other! However, this isn’t the only transmission route.

It is known that the virus can be carried on toothbrushes and cups/glasses etc. So, even if you were so inclined, it’s one reason to think twice about using another person’s toothbrush.

However, don’t get paranoid about it! The majority of people have already been infected by the virus during their younger childhood and not even noticed it.

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