HOUSTON -

A Japanese study found dog owners and their pets swap oral bacteria which could cause gum disease and tooth decay.

When researchers analyzed dental plaque in over 50 dogs and their owners, they found human bacteria in the mouths of dogs.

Canine bacteria was also detected in the mouths of humans, even those who didn't have that much direct contact with their dogs.

There's nothing Zack Bryant loves more than big, wet, sloppy kisses from his pup.

He told Local 2, "I'm very affectionate with my dog. (I kiss him) at least 20 times a day, at least, and right on the mouth, too!"

But the new study has some dog owners thinking twice about the affects of those smooches, not just on themselves, but on their dog's health.

Robert Ball said, "If they want to lick, then I turn the cheek."

Gena Tribble, Ph.D., is an oral microbiologist with UTHealth School of Dentistry. She said she's not surprised by the findings, but isn't buying the assertion that swapping bacteria with your pet could lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

She explained, "The actual processes that lead to disease are much more complicated than just having some exposure to those bacteria."

Tribble said humans' diet and hygiene are more likely to blame. Still, she advises using common sense when puckering up to Fido.

She added, "After you've been licked by your dog, you might want to wash your hands before you eat or wipe your face, and I don't think there's any need to isolate ourselves from animals. They provide far more benefits than they do negative consequences."

Whether you're an affectionate dog lover or not, Tribble recommends regular tooth brushing for both you and your dog.