There is more to a kiss than just a show of affection. The science of kissing goes far beyond an intimate interaction with a loved one. Kissing can affect the body all the way down to the cellular level. The way we react to a kiss is so unlike anything else, there is even a name to the science. Philematology comes from the ancient Greek world “philos” meaning “earthly love.”
The health benefits of kissing far outweigh the downfalls (well, as long as you are kissing the right person). Kissing for romance versus kissing out of instinct, the evolutionary theory of kissing and adaptation of the practice in animals are all interesting concepts that this post will touch on. Grab your favorite lip balm and get ready to pucker up!
Kissy Face 101
The skin on your lips is thinner than that on other parts of the body and has more nerve endings than your most delicate body parts. The brain dedicates a large amount of receptors to indicate sensations in the lips. The need for sensitive lips is based on survival. The lips are what direct a baby toward milk. Lip sensitivity helped our ancient ancestors from long, long ago determine whether or not food was poisonous.
The thin layer of skin on the lips makes it easier for them to succumb to cracking and chapping. Lips have less oil glands than other areas of the skin and they cannot produce sun-filtering melatonin to use a protection against UV rays. Proper lip care is pretty important to executing an amazing kiss.
Kissing Relieves Stress
When you need a D.O.S.E. of happiness kissing is the way to bring on dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins. Kissing causes the release of a dopamine. This natural hormone controls feelings of bliss, pleasure, focus and more. It also stimulates oxytocin. Oxytocin promotes a calm emotional attachment and induces the desire for cuddling and closeness. The neurotransmitter serotonin affects over 80 percent of brain cells, promoting self-esteem and depression relief. The science of kissing also notes increased levels of serotonin. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that boost mood and block pain receptors. Kissing can provide a rush of endorphins that leaves the kisser feeling much better than before they puckered up.
Facelift from Kissing
The mouth contains a plethora of facial muscles. Depending on the intensity of the kissing activity, anywhere from 23 to 34 muscles may be engaged. Deep kissing can tone your neck and jawline. They are areas you don’t usually get to when lifting weights. This great added bonus can keep you looking younger and your face muscles healthy and kissable.
Kissing Improves Immunity
Ok, so it’s a little gross, but there is undoubtedly bacteria in the saliva you are swapping during a kissing session. This bacteria adds to your overall defense system by stimulating the release of antibodies that kill germs. As many as 10 million to 1 billion bacteria, representing 278 different species. may be exchanged during an active kiss. Though that does not sound pleasing, few think of that in the moment. The exception to immunity improvement is when one partner is carrying a contagious illness that can be transferred by bacteria such as strep throat or mononucleosis
Oral Health Benefits of Kissing
Though it is not as effective as brushing and flossing, kissing can benefit oral health. The science of kissing indicates that salivary glands to become more active. Saliva is made up of water, electrolytes, glycoproteins, mucous, antibacterial compounds and enzymes. This substance can neutralize acids in the mouth, fight off harmful bacterial and wash away food particles. Saliva can also help protect tooth enamel. Having a dry mouth can be detrimental to your oral health. Kissing can help keep the saliva flowing. But please also remember to brush or you probably won’t be kissed very often.
Kissing Burns Calories and Lowers Blood Pressure
No, this is not going to be the latest fitness trend. Kissing does not burn nearly as many calories as exercise. Roughly- up to two calories a minute. That may not seem like a lot, but that is much better than just sitting around. Intense kissing can also lower blood pressure by increasing heart rate, which dilates the blood vessels.
Evolution of the Kiss
No one knows for sure if kissing is a natural instinct or if it is learned. 90 percent of cultures around the world engage in kissing. The other 10 percent believe that the exchange of saliva is unsanitary.
Historians speculate that human kissing evolved from the primitive action of a mother chewing food for a baby and spitting it into their mouths. This is similar to how birds feed their young. Over time this action became associated with love and affection, thus we have the modern kiss.
Animals and Kissing
Many animal species engage in kissing-like behavior. Elephants put their trunks in each other’s mouths. Dogs sniff and lick each other. Turtles have been seen to tap each other on the head. Birds will rub or preen each other. Primates like monkeys, gorillas and chimps have more human-like kissing behavior, which is likely due to how closely our DNA is related.
The Science of Kissing is also an Art
One study revealed 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women polled had ended a relationship in the early stages because of a bad kiss. There is no tangible evidence on what makes a “bad kiss,” but the sense of smell may play a part. It is possible that we can subconsciously pick up DNA compatibility clues through pheromones. This may translate to our brains as a bad match.
Studies have been done to further the science of kissing in an attempt to correlate the way people kiss with a number of things like gender or hand dominance. It turns out that most people turn their heads to the right. This is often in response to the position of the kiss initiator. This response assists in the art of creating a comfortable kiss for both participants. The direction we have tendency to lean is apparently something humans are born with.
Next time you go in for a smooch, think of all the good you are doing for yourself and your significant other. In fact, it has been said that people who kiss more live longer. Perhaps the key to immortality is just a kiss away!