Fortunately my kissing abilities and understanding of consent have both improved since then, and it turns out that even if cooties are real, they might actually be good for your health. Seriously—making out has some very real, science-backed benefits that you can read about below.
1. Kissing is good for your teeth—as long as the two of you are fairly hygienic
According to Sivan Finkel, a cosmetic dentist in New York City, kissing leads to increased saliva production, which helps our teeth rid themselves of harmful bacteria. “The extra saliva helps remineralize teeth and protect them from acid attacks,” he says.
Even better, some experts believe that saliva’s mineral ions can promote the repair of small lesions in tooth enamel—but again, oral hygiene is key.
2. Kissing can give your immune system a boost
More than 700 types of bacteria have been found in the human mouth, but no two people have the exact same makeup of oral germs, so exchanging saliva with someone can introduce new “foreign” bacteria into your body, which isn’t a bad thing.
“Trillions of microorganisms live on or inside us, and collectively they’re known as the microbiome,” says Shilpa Ravella, M.D., a gastroenterologist and an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Ravella points to a recent Dutch study that found that when we kiss for more than 10 seconds, about 80 million bacteria are transferred between us and our partner, which can introduce new and sometimes helpful bacteria into our mouths. “Many studies have shown that having a variety of bacterial species correlates with good health.
3. Kissing can lower anxiety
From a chemical standpoint, one of the primary health benefits of kissing is its ability to release the hormone oxytocin (known as the love hormone), according to Stephanie Hartselle, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University, who cites its ability to induce a sense of calm, relaxation, and bonding in humans. The hormone, which is also released during foreplay and orgasm, “has been shown to be as powerful as meditation and many antianxiety medications in producing a feeling of peace and contentment,” Dr. Hartselle says.
4. Kissing can help lessen allergic reactions
Bet you never knew making out could help ease itchy symptoms that come with nasal or skin allergies.
Stay with us on this one: In 2006 allergist Hajime Kimata studied 24 patients with two types of allergies—mild atopic eczema (a skin allergy) and mild allergic rhinitis (a nasal allergy)—before and after they had kissed lovers or spouses for 30 minutes while listening to soft music.
5. Kissing can help lower blood pressure
According to Ryan Neinstein, M.D., a plastic surgeon in New York City, our lips are made up of blood vessels, which become dilated during kissing. “The blood is then directed toward the face and away from the rest of the body,” he says, “so the demand on the heart goes down, resulting in lower blood pressure.”
Also, remember that fact about cortisol? When your cortisol level is lower, so is your blood pressure. “The more you kiss, the more your heart races, and the more your blood flows, ultimately reducing high blood pressure,” Dr. Neinstein says.