Is a Dog’s Mouth Cleaner Than a Human’s? The Truth Behind the Myth


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If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably heard the saying that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. But is this really true? While dogs may have different bacteria in their mouths than humans, it’s not necessarily cleaner or safer. In fact, there are some potential health risks associated with letting your dog lick your face or mouth.

A dog's mouth licks a bone, saliva glistening under sunlight, teeth and tongue visible

Dogs have a different oral microbiome than humans, meaning they have a different mix of bacteria in their mouths. While some of these bacteria can be beneficial for dogs, others can be harmful to humans. For example, dogs can carry bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, which can cause food poisoning in humans. Additionally, dogs can carry harmful strains of bacteria like MRSA, which can be difficult to treat in humans.

While it’s unlikely that you’ll get sick from letting your dog lick your face or mouth, it’s still important to practice good hygiene. This includes washing your hands after handling your dog, not allowing your dog to lick open wounds or sores, and avoiding contact with your dog’s feces. It’s also a good idea to regularly brush your dog’s teeth and take them to the vet for regular check-ups to maintain their oral health.

Comparing Microbial Flora

When it comes to comparing microbial flora between dogs and humans, there are some important differences to consider. Let’s take a closer look at the bacteria found in dog mouths and the human oral microbiome.

Bacteria in Dog Mouths

Dogs have a diverse range of bacteria in their mouths, just like humans. However, there are some key differences in the types of bacteria that are present. One study found that dogs have a higher prevalence of certain bacteria, including Porphyromonas gulae, which is associated with periodontal disease in dogs [1]. Additionally, dog saliva contains enzymes that help to break down food and kill harmful bacteria, which can help to keep their mouths clean [2].

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Human Oral Microbiome

The human oral microbiome is also diverse, with hundreds of different species of bacteria present [3]. However, the types of bacteria found in the human mouth are different from those found in dogs. For example, humans have a higher prevalence of Streptococcus mutans, which is a major contributor to dental caries and cavities [4]. Additionally, human saliva contains enzymes that help to break down food and neutralize harmful bacteria, which can also help to maintain oral health.

Overall, while both dogs and humans have diverse microbial flora in their mouths, the specific types of bacteria and enzymes present can vary significantly. Understanding these differences is important for maintaining good oral hygiene in both dogs and humans.

[1] Dewhirst, F. E., Klein, E. A., Thompson, E. C., Blanton, J. M., Chen, T., Milella, L., … & Novak, M. J. (2012). The canine oral microbiome. PLoS One, 7(4), e36067.

[2] American Kennel Club. (2021). Is a Dog’s Mouth Cleaner Than a Human’s? Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/is-dogs-mouth-cleaner-than-humans/

[3] Human Microbiome Project Consortium. (2012). A framework for human microbiome research. Nature, 486(7402), 215-221.

[4] Marsh, P. D. (2003). Dental plaque as a biofilm and a microbial community-implications for health and disease. BMC oral health, 3(S1), S14.

Health Risks and Disease Transmission

When it comes to the cleanliness of a dog’s mouth compared to a human’s, there are some potential health risks to consider. In this section, we will discuss some of the possible infections that can be transmitted from dogs to humans through their mouths.

Potential Infections from Dog Mouths

Dogs’ mouths can harbor various bacteria and pathogens that can cause infections in humans. For example, Pasteurella is a type of bacteria commonly found in dogs’ mouths that can cause skin infections and even more severe infections such as pneumonia and sepsis in people with compromised immune systems. Capnocytophaga is another type of bacteria that can cause severe infections in humans, especially those with weakened immune systems. In rare cases, dog bites can also transmit rabies, a viral disease that can be fatal if not treated promptly.

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Human Oral-Related Diseases

While dogs’ mouths can pose some risks to human health, it is also important to consider the potential for humans to transmit diseases to dogs through their mouths. For example, humans can transmit bacteria that cause dental disease in dogs, such as cavities and periodontal disease. Additionally, humans can transmit infections such as salmonella and E. coli to dogs through their saliva.

To minimize the risk of disease transmission, it is important to practice good hygiene and dental care for both yourself and your dog. This includes regular teeth brushing with toothpaste formulated for dogs, avoiding sharing food or drinks with your dog, and seeking prompt medical attention for any wounds or bites from dogs. It is also important to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases.

In summary, while dogs’ mouths may not be cleaner than humans’, there are potential risks for disease transmission from both dogs to humans and humans to dogs. By practicing good hygiene and dental care, you can help minimize the risk of infection and maintain the health of both yourself and your furry friend.

Hygiene and Preventative Care

Maintaining good oral hygiene is important for both dogs and humans. Proper dental care helps prevent a range of dental problems such as tartar buildup, bad breath, and infections. In this section, we’ll explore some best practices for dog and human oral hygiene.

Dog Oral Hygiene Practices

Dogs need regular dental care just like humans do. Some of the best practices for maintaining good oral hygiene in dogs include brushing their teeth, providing dental chews and treats, and regular professional dental cleanings. Brushing your dog’s teeth is an effective way to remove plaque and tartar buildup. You should use toothpaste specifically designed for dogs, as human toothpaste can contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. You can also provide your dog with dental chews, chew toys, and dental treats, which can help clean their teeth and freshen their breath.

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It is important to note that while some products may claim to have antibacterial properties, they are not a substitute for professional dental cleanings. Regular dental cleanings by a veterinarian can help prevent dental problems and detect any underlying issues early on.

Human Dental Care

Humans need to take care of their teeth and gums to prevent dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Proper dental care includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and regular dental checkups. Brushing your teeth removes plaque and bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. You should use toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps protect your teeth against cavities.

Flossing helps remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth and along the gum line. Regular dental checkups can help detect any dental problems early on and prevent them from becoming more serious. You should see your dentist at least twice a year for a professional dental cleaning and checkup.

In conclusion, maintaining good oral hygiene is important for both dogs and humans. Regular dental care, including brushing, providing dental chews and treats, and regular professional dental cleanings, can help prevent dental problems and detect any underlying issues early on. Remember to use toothpaste specifically designed for dogs and fluoride toothpaste for humans, and to see your dentist regularly.



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