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We all do it: Smooching, pecking, snogging, necking.
No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you call it — kissing is a form of affection shared by people around the world. For many people, it’s naturally ingrained in us to want to kiss the ones we love.
Why do we do it? And what are the impacts of all this saliva-swapping on our oral health?
There’s a pretty simple reason for why we love to kiss: It just plain feels good. That’s because your lips are filled with tons of little nerve endings that get fired up when they touch something else.
But there’s some debate around exactly why we do it. Scientists have found that kissing is not universal — but it’s close. An estimated 90% of people give a little peck here and there. And for many people, kissing isn’t actually a romantic activity. In one smooching study, only 46% of the cultures surveyed kiss with sexual intentions.
People kiss as a greeting, a farewell, and a show of affection for family, friends, and significant others. No matter who you’re kissing, there’s a strong chance you care about them, so don’t scare them off with a dirty mouth!
The best way to ensure your oral health stays top-notch? Brush up on your oral hygiene facts, both the good and the not-so good ways that kissing impacts your mouth’s health. With these smarts, you can impress the dentist, keep your pearly whites, and maybe even lock in that second date.
It’s hard to believe that an activity that feels so good could have a dark side. But there are some risks — however minor and totally worth it — to locking lips.
Kissing someone who doesn’t keep up with their oral hygiene can mean more than a whiff of bad breath. When you kiss, you’re swapping saliva. Bacteria that feed off sugar and carbs build a nice little home in your mouth, especially if you nosh on a lot of sugary foods. That bacteria releases acid, which causes tooth decay and cavities. That means when you give your partner a big ol’ kiss, you’re passing some tooth-decaying bacteria their way too.
But don’t worry, for someone who brushes their teeth regularly, the amount of bacteria passed in a smooch is hardly enough to warrant a filling on your next trip to the dentist.
Ever seen a mom get picky about who touches her baby? She’s got a good point, especially if people are angling to kiss her baby. Bacteria and viruses can spread easily between anyone, but young babies have little immunity, and are more likely to get infected when their teeth are just coming in. So next time you lean in to give your little niece a peck, make sure it’s not on the lips.
We’ve all heard about mono, aka “the kissing disease,” spreading like wildfire after a high school dance. But the funny thing is, your saliva is actually armed with antibodies and enzymes that fight all the bad stuff that gets in your mouth.
Of course, kissing someone who’s got a cold and is contagious can increase your likelihood of getting sick too. But it’s mucus that carries the cold, not saliva. So if you catch a cold from a kiss, there’s a good chance it was a bit of a mucusy makeout session. (Uhm. Gross.) When viruses spread, the germs have already worked their way past your saliva and into other parts of your body, like your lungs, nose, and throat.
How risky is it really to kiss someone with a history of being infected with herpes simplex virus (HSV)? Should you be worried? Probably not. At least 50% of Americans have oral herpes, and more than 90% of people who have it don’t know it. While you can spread it with no signs of a sore during “asymptomatic shedding,” the most common way for it to spread is through skin-to-skin contact with an open sore, which you can most definitely see.
What about other scary mouth problems, like gum disease? Research shows that periodontal disease is caused by inflammation and bacteria under your gums, so technically, you’re not going to catch full-blown gum disease from someone. You will, however, get a mouthful of that gum-disease-causing bacteria.
All these not-so-clean facts about kissing got you thinking twice about your next tongue wrestling match? Have no fear — as it turns out, there are also plenty of dentist-approved reasons to makeout ’til dawn.
Not all bacteria is bad bacteria. In fact, we need bacteria a plenty for proper gut health, which impacts our bodies from head to toe. When it comes to oral health, kissing helps replenish your stores of healthy bacteria by introducing your microbiome to bacteria you didn’t have before. And, studies show that 45% of the bacteria in your gut are the same as the ones in your mouth.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? When it comes to building your oral microbiome, this is pretty true. You can transfer 80 million new little bacteria to someone in a 10 second kiss. Since your saliva is your mouth’s defense system, most often this doesn’t make you sick. It just makes you stronger.
Saliva is made of proteins and enzymes that wash away bits of food and bacteria from that burger you ate for lunch, and it helps neutralize acids from foods like oranges or lemons. When you kiss someone, you produce more saliva, so you’re doing great things for your mouth.
The bottom line: kissing is good for you. It strengthens personal bonds and connects people. Just don’t forget to follow best practices to keep your teeth healthy. Your dentist will appreciate it — and the person you’re smoochin’ will too. Woven with hundreds of grime-grabbing fibers, Cocofloss erases sour, stinky plaque to leave your mouth more kissable than ever.