Better Teeth and Boosted Moods? Why Kissing Is Good for Your Health

Pleasurable kissing can invite a range of health benefits, from reduced stress and anxiety to improved blood pressure levels and immune function.

Whether you call it smooching, necking, snogging or making out, kissing is not only fun and pleasurable, it has some mighty health benefits. Read on to learn about these perks, based on recent studies and expert insight.

1. Boosted Moods

If the blahs have overshadowed your day, kissing may be just what the doctor ordered. “Not only does it feel good in a physical sense, the release of pleasurable hormones like dopamine, serotonin and the ‘cuddle-hormone’ oxytocin also creates a physiological upswing in your mood and overall well-being,” said Shadeen Francis, MFT, a marriage and family therapist specializing in sex therapy and social justice. Research published in Scientific Reports in December 2015 showed that oxytocin may help counteract negative feelings.

2. Reduced Stress, Anxiety and Depression

If you’re one of the millions of adults in the U.S. living with depression or an anxiety disorder, kissing might bring some much-needed relief. While the activity can’t replace medically necessary care, it may make symptoms a bit milder or easier to manage. These benefits derive from reductions in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, said Francis, which can be amplified by psychological stress. “Have you ever had a kiss so passionate that the rest of the world seems to just disappear?” she added. “Kissing can be akin to a meditative practice, encouraging you to be present and connected to the moment.”

3. Improved Libido

Kissing is often an important component of sex for women, according to a survey summarized in The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality in April 2015. But regardless of your gender, taking more time to smooch may be just the thing to boost a flagging libido. When Kay, an office manager in Burbank, California, noticed less interest in sex, she told LIVESTRONG.COM, a therapist recommended taking more time to kiss. “I realized that physically intimate connection was what I needed and kissing was a must for that, and it led to me wanting more sex,” she said. “I have more energy when I’m sexually active, so I think [kissing] is also improving my health in other ways.” Kay is more inclined to exercise when she gets it on every week or two, for example.

4. A Stronger Immune System

Hoping to lower your chances of colds or flu this year? You may want to make kissing part of your wellness arsenal. Numerous studies have linked kissing with immune function benefits. Research published in Mediators of Inflammation in 2018 showed that molecules in saliva that are exchanged through “French kissing” significantly improve levels of an anti-inflammatory response in the intestines. “Kissing can create an exchange of millions of bacteria,” said Dr. Sheila Loanzon, a board certified OB-GYN in San Jose, California. “By sharing your germs with kissing partners, you are adding to your internal defense system.”

5. Healthier Teeth and Gums

The American Dental Hygienists Association calls saliva production “your mouth’s most powerful natural defense against decay.” And kissing is one powerful way to stimulate it. The added saliva brought about through kissing can wash away harmful bacteria on your teeth, said Loanzon, and lower your risk of plaque buildup. “Poor dental hygiene can predispose people to a myriad of health issues,” she added. An increased risk for coronary artery disease, dementia and gum disease are just a few examples. So while you’ll still want to brush, floss and see your dentist routinely, kissing might just bolster these efforts.

6. Lower Blood Pressure

A study published in Pathophysiology in June 2016 showed that oxytocin injections significantly lowered blood pressure levels in hypertensive rats. Because kissing can cause the body to release more of this “bonding hormone,” it may have a similar impact on human blood pressure health. Oxytocin is also considered the “love hormone,” because the body releases it when you bond socially or snuggle. “When a kissing experience is a positive one, kissing can translate to euphoria, a sense of peace and calm,” said Loanzon, adding that these stress relief perks can contribute to improved blood pressure levels as well. While kissing shouldn’t replace medical treatment, she said, it may be a “satisfying therapy in conjunction with pharmaceuticals.”

7. Maximizing Kissing’s Health Benefits

Some final thoughts on kissing: Know that it can raise the risk for conditions like colds, flus and herpes simplex 1, which can cause cold sores and genital infections. To lower these risks, avoid kissing when you or your partner have a contagious infection. To guard against sexually transmitted infections, Loanzon suggests discussing your personal sexual history with potential partners, avoiding oral-to-genital sex with someone experiencing an oral herpes outbreak and monitoring for symptoms. While there’s no shame in having an infection, staying aware, conscientious and communicative is a powerful way to respect yourself and others. For maximized emotional perks, aim for “intentional, desire-filled kisses,” said Francis. “They can be an important part of your relationship bond and can improve your self-esteem.”