Science Of Kissing: Kissing Facts, Kisses In History & ‘Kiss’ Etymology

Have you ever wondered why we kiss? What’s the history behind kissing? There’s quite a lot of history behind the human activity of kissing, as it happens. As well as the romantic and passionate elements of smooching, the scientific side of kissing is fascinating. There’s even a word for these kissing facts: the science of kissing is called philematology.

Let’s start with the physical aspects of sharing a kiss. Did you know that when two people kiss, they can exchange 80 million bacteria? Another good reason to make sure you’ve brushed your teeth first. Having said that, kissing is in itself surprisingly good for teeth. Simply anticipating a kiss increases the flow of saliva to the mouth. This is a fantastic bonus, because plaque-busting saliva helps remove food particles and the bacteria which causes cavities, as well as neutralising harmful acids.

The motion and mechanics of kissing is almost identical to suckling, which puts a bit of a Freudian slant on things. What do you do with your head while kissing? Do you find it more comfortable to tilt your head one way rather than the other? As it happens, two-thirds of people tip their head to the right when they kiss. Scholars believe this preference starts in the womb – another indication that we could be hard-wired to enjoy kissing as a display of affection.

A contrary indication to this is the fact that some cultures don’t seem to engage in kissing at all. Some Central-American, Sub-Saharan African, New Guinean & Amazonian cultures show no signs of kissing being practised. 

Kissing for fitness certainly sounds a lot more pleasant than slogging it out on the gym treadmill. The sad news, from the science of kissing files, is that even passionate kissing only burns about 3 calories a minute. And a minute is a long time when you’re lip-locked and tongue tied. There are some who claim kissing burns 6.4 calories a minute, but there’s not much evidence for this.

If you’re feeling hungry after all that calorie-burning, it might be time for a snack. A Hershey’s Kiss has 22 calories… it will take you 5 minutes of walking or plenty of passionate kissing to burn it off, though.

In better news, passionate or French kissing uses all 34 muscles in the face which can help keep you looking youthful for longer. A quick peck only uses two muscles, by comparison.

Did you know we have a ‘kissing muscle’? The orbicularis oris is the most important muscle in kissing, because it allows your lips to purse ready for a kiss. Pucker up!


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