Kissing has been a part of our lives since humans walked the earth! Kissing is an important social construct that displays affection for one another. Whether it’s a romantic relationship, familial bonding, or a cultural way of saying hello, kissing is a part of the human experience.
While kissing is certainly not going away anytime soon, it’s important to understand the risks that are associated with kissing. Our mouths have a diverse array of bacteria that can benefit our oral health as well as potentially harm it. The key to a balanced oral microbiome is keeping the bad at bay and the good thriving! Today we will learn the benefits and the risks of partaking in kissing and how to protect yourself when going in for a smooch!
Research has found that intimate kissing, which lasts on average 10 seconds or longer, can result in the exchange of over 80 million types of bacteria. However, this was between partners who have shared many long, intimate kisses. This research also showed that the main contributor to similar bacteria levels was the same bacteria found on the surface of the tongue. Thus, intimate kissing, which includes more functions of the tongue, contributes to more bacteria exchange.
The short answer is yes, you can! A specific type of bacteria, known as streptococcus mutans, causes tooth decay or cavities. This strain of bacteria can easily be transferred through kissing, sharing utensils, and any other close contact with one another. Other strains of bacteria that contribute to gum disease and even cold sores can also be transferred when kissing. This is extremely important to understand for those who may kiss a newborn baby, as these illnesses can be extremely difficult for newborns to handle.
Kissing is in our DNA. Humans are social animals and rely on building relationships, bonding, and much more to thrive. Kissing is just one small aspect of that bonding that is important to human health. Generally, kissing is a healthy act that comes with many health benefits to humans. However, it’s important to know the risks and how to avoid them.
Kissing activates more than 10,000 nerve endings, beginning with those in the lips and rapidly extending to the brain. This triggers the release of various feel good chemicals. Oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, also known as the “feel good hormones,” are released in the brain when kissing. These hormones will increase feelings of happiness and euphoria and are the main players in producing a good feeling when kissing.
The same hormones that are responsible for the happiness you feel when kissing are also associated with an increased bonding experience, especially oxytocin. A rush of chemical reactions occurs in the brain, increasing the bonding between the individuals who share a smooch in romantic relationships!
Sharing a kiss with another can help to boost one’s confidence and, in turn, result in higher levels of self-esteem thanks to those same happy hormones being produced. A study discovered that men in Kissing in marital and cohabiting relationships who shared a French or passionate kiss with their partner before leaving for work tended to earn higher incomes.
Research has shown that levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol, are lowered when one is kissing. Research supports the notion that kissing generally will lower overall stress levels and response.
Similar to when stress is reduced, anxiety-like symptoms can also be reduced when kissing. Hormones are more likely to be balanced from kissing and have a calming effect throughout the body.
Research has also shown that your heart rate increases when kissing. This increase in heart rate influences the blood vessels throughout the body to expand and increase blood flow, reducing overall blood pressure!
When you kiss often, you strengthen the facial muscles in your face, similar to working out any muscle. This, in turn, can increase firmness and collagen production and promote a more youthful appearance.
Due to kissing’s ability to increase blood flow and reduce overall stress, some research supports the notion that kissing can also decrease the presence of headaches.
Some research states that kissing can increase the strength of one’s immune system due to the introduction of new bacteria that are exchanged through saliva. When new bacterial strains are introduced, the body builds an immune response to these bacteria, which can strengthen your body’s ability to fight future bacteria.
Those who experience reduced stress when kissing may also experience reduced allergy symptoms. This is due to increased blood flow that boosts immune response, resulting in fewer allergy symptoms.
While there are many good aspects to partaking in a kiss that is part of our biology as humans, it comes with a few risks that should be known. Kissing can lead to some not-so-great outcomes, from tooth decay to serious infections.
As mentioned before, kissing can, in fact, spread the cavity-causing bacteria known as streptococcus mutans. These bacteria can be transferred via shared saliva and cause tooth decay in an otherwise healthy, cavity-free mouth. It is well known that many of us, as newborns, acquire these bacteria from our mothers, who kiss and feed us.
When you kiss, you can transfer more than just saliva. The mucus that is found in the back of the throat can also be transmitted when kissing, which is often the culprit of spreading the common cold.
Also known as the “kissing disease,” the Epstein-Barr virus causes mononucleosis. This virus is highly infectious and can easily be caught by kissing an infected individual.
The herpes virus can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, including kissing someone infected with the virus. While active herpetic lesions may be visible and more obvious to avoid- a shedding period when the virus is not visible is also a high risk for transferring the virus.
A viral infection that affects the liver, Hepatitis B is easily spread through bodily fluids, including the saliva of those infected.
Also known as meningitis, it is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. This infection is serious and, in severe cases, can be deadly. This infection is often spread via throat secretions, including saliva.
Due to the human papillomavirus (HPV), warts are easily spread from person to person. Warts spread most often on areas of the skin that have recently suffered trauma, such as scratches or other small cuts.
While some bad and some good can come from kissing, kissing seems more beneficial than bad! Practicing safe kissing by knowing and trusting those you kiss can help reduce the risk of spreading unwanted bacteria and viruses! Ensuring open and honest communication and discussing boundaries is a great way to practice safe kissing. If you are concerned about your risks of kissing or spreading illness to others, talking to your dental provider regarding your medical history is a great start! Your future kisses will thank you!
Make your inbox smile!