Ah yes, kissing, it can feel oh-so-good, but it also has health benefits! Kissing stimulates saliva that rinses the mouth and helps remove cavity causing food and bacteria. Kissing involves touch which can increase levels of oxytocin, a calming hormone. The exchange of saliva during kissing stimulates the immune system’s production of antibodies to foreign bacteria, a process called cross-immunotherapy. However, the flip side of kissing is the transmission of diseases.
The Bad and The Ugly
The common cold and upper respiratory infections are spread easily by kissing. Dental diseases, including periodontal disease (gum infection), and cavity causing bacteria are also transmitted through saliva. Glandular fever, known as “the kissing disease”, and infectious mononucleosis are spread by the exchange of saliva. However, there are even more serious viruses spread by kissing. They include: Varicella-Zoster (commonly causes chicken pox and shingles), Herpes Simplex, Hepatitis B, and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). A potentially lifethreatening condition called meningococcal disease, which causes inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord and septicemia, can be transmitted through deep kissing.
Recommendations to reduce the risk of catching or transmitting an infection while kissing:
• Don’t kiss strangers or people whom you have only known a short time;
• Avoid kissing when you or the other person is sick;
• Avoid kissing when you or the other person has an active cold sore, warts or ulcers in and around the lips or the mouth;
• Maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly;
• Talk to your doctor about vaccinations to prevent some diseases including chicken pox, Hepatitis B, pneumonia, shingles, and group C meningococcal infection.