Why you should pucker up: Four health benefits to kissing your loved one

·4 min read

What exactly makes a kiss special?

Andréa Demirjian, author of "Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about One of Life's Sweetest Pleasures," says she thinks of kissing as something that is as essential to life as breathing.

"Through our kissing, both in giving and receiving, we are communicating our care and love and affection for people, whether it is a romantic affection or whether it's a filial affection for a family member or friend," Demirjian said.

But there is so much more to a kiss than just the intimate role it plays between two loved ones. Receiving a kiss has numerous health benefits, too.

"I always say that a kiss a day can keep the doctor away," Demirjian said.

Experts shared with USA TODAY some benefits to kissing.

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Kissing can help you lose weight

There is no definitive answer as to how many calories a kiss can burn, according to mindbodygreen.com, because it depends on a variety of factors, including how long the make-out session is, how passionate the kisses are, and other factors.

But experts have made estimations.

According to a 2013 report on philematology, Joseph S. Alpert, a professor of medicine and medical director of cardiac rehabilitation at the University of Arizona College of Medicine at Tucson, writes that a simple kiss can burn 2 to 3 calories per minute, whereas a passionate kisses can burn up to 5 to 26 calories per minute.

"It's kind of a nice way to stay fit, maybe even lose some weight, because if you're engaging in really vigorous, you know, make-out sexy kissing, it can actually rev your metabolism," Demirjian said.

Kissing can boost your self-esteem

Jennifer Litner, a sexologist and founder of Embrace Sexual Wellness, says that from a neuroscience perspective, kissing can cause the brain to release neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine, which can lead to greater feelings of affection, bonding and intimacy.

"A lot of times, when people experience higher rates of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, they will also notice that that often counteracts or lowers cortisol, which is a stress hormone," Litner said.

In terms of boosting self-esteem, there is no direct relationship between kissing someone and automatically feeling good about yourself. It is a gradual process.

From a psychological standpoint, Demirjian says that kissing someone indicates certain feelings toward a person, which makes them feel good about themselves.

"When you're kissing someone, you're letting them know that you have feelings for them, you have affection for them and that you find them attractive," Demirjian said. "And that's all makes you feel good about yourself."

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Kissing can help reduce cavities

Matthew Messina, clinical director at the Ohio State Upper Arlington Dentistry, says that there's no scientific evidence about kissing and reducing cavities. But two approaches can be taken to better understand this phenomenon.

From a physiological viewpoint, cavities are caused by bacteria present in the mouth that burn sugars from food. The burning of the sugars is via acid, and acid wears away tooth enamel, which causes tooth decay.

"The way we reduce cavities is by either cleaning the teeth off and eating a lower sugar diet to give the bacteria less food and brush or floss to keep it off of there," Messina said.

Bu, he says that saliva is a great buffer that washes away the acids and neutralizes them.

"That's kind of where the kissing comes in," Messina said. "Theoretically, we know physiologically that kissing will increase your saliva flow in your mouth."

The other thing, he says, is that if a person is planning on kissing somebody, certainly in the short run, or on a regular basis, they are more likely to take better care of their oral hygiene.

Kissing can dilate your blood vessels

Demirjian says that when a person starts kissing, their heart rate increases. As a result, their blood pressure decreases, and blood vessels dilate.

"There's more room for the blood flow," Demirjian said. "So, there's like a rush of these like feel-good chemicals that makes you feel less stressed, and it's good for your heart and your blood pressure."

She says that for people with menstrual cramps or headaches, kissing might help reduce those pains because blood vessels are opening up in the body.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kissing has health benefits, including helping you lose weight

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