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What’s in a Kiss?

Posted Apr 26 2012 4:28pm

A Kiss is Never Just a Kiss .

Rowan Pelling chats to academics, authors and researchers about the history and significance of the kiss and learns how to kiss for stage, screen and radio.

Want to know what you learn and reveal every time you kiss?

  • We used to kiss with our noses, a term called ‘sniffing’ before the word ‘kissing’ was in common use. ‘A sniff’ was a way to recognise family members.
  • Face-to-face connections are widespread in the animal kingdom. Chimpanzees like to French kiss each other and the odd zookeeper!
  • Trobriand Islanders engage in a ritual of ‘violent kissing’, which involves grooming each other with leaves and twigs, biting each other’s lower lip until they draw blood, pulling out tufts of hair and finally, nibbling each other’s eyelashes. Having short eyelashes is a status symbol…
  • When you kiss someone your brain is assessing that person’s health, eating and drinking habits, smoking, state of mind and whether or not they will be a reliable partner to have children with.
  • Kissing affects three brain systems – sex drive, feelings of romantic love and feelings of deep attachment. Testosterone and estrogen are exchanged via saliva, which is why men like sloppier kisses apparently, to gauge where a woman is at in her menstrual cycle and whether she is ovulating.
  • Dopamine levels rise when we kiss which triggers our brain circuitry to fall in love or sustain those feelings of early love. It’s why kissing is so important in a long-term relationship.
  • Attachment – kissing drives up levels of oxytocin in the brain making us feel calm, secure, connected and attached and lowers our levels of stress hormones.
  • Kissing can be hazardous, says Dr Nigel Carter from the Dental Health Foundation. There are 20-30,000 types of bacteria in the mouth, most of which are harmless but if a mother has a dental infection she can transmit it to her child via ‘vertical transmission’ and it can affect that child’s dental health for life.
  • For sweet kisses visit the dental hygienist regularly, drink plenty of water and don’t forget to brush your tongue as it harbours lots of bacteria.


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