Ask the Dentist: Tips for getting your orbicularis oris ready for St Valentine's Day

Dentist Lucy Stock at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast gives readers hoping to get some kissing action this Valentine's Day something to think about

Orbicularis oris muscles all over Ireland will no doubt be in overdrive tomorrow
Lucy Stock

WHILE my husband thinks I’m more than a little odd wanting to go and see a heart dissection this Valentine’s Day as part of the NI Science Festival, I think he underestimates how much we benefit from our underlying anatomy.

Orbicularis oris muscles all over Ireland will no doubt be in overdrive mode tomorrow as they are among the top players involved in kissing. The orbicularis oris is a circular muscle that runs around your mouth; it's sometimes known as the kissing muscle and importantly allows us to ‘pucker up.’

Fitness enthusiasts probably won’t be satisfied with a quick peck as it only uses two facial muscles, if you want an intense workout go for the full-on smooch as it involves all 34 muscles in the face.

However, for many the deal this Valentine’s Day may not be sealed with a kiss so for those who are still on the chase you may have to rely on your zygomaticus major muscle. It is the strap-like muscle which joins the corner of your mouth to your cheekbone and when you contract it, it pulls your lips up and out – a smile!

If you are one of the super lucky ones – well, actually lucky anatomy ones – the zygomaticus major muscle is also responsible for cheek dimples which are always a help on the dating scene.

The lips muscles aren’t just for movement – they also play a part in whispering sweet nothings. Lips help us to fine tune our voices to perfect expression.

Receptor cells for touch are located all over the body, in your skin. They are called Meissner's corpuscles and where there are many receptors, or the cells are more concentrated, your sense of touch is heightened. So, the greater the number of receptors a body part has, the more sensitive it will be. Your lips are 100 times more sensitive than the tips of the fingers. Not even genitals have as much sensitivity as lips.

On the down side, the lips dry out so fast because there are no sweat glands around the area. So, lip balm may come in handy for maximum kissing appeal.

So, whatever your intentions this Valentine’s Day remember that we use 17 muscles to smile and 43 muscles to frown so smiling is less work and far better for all our interactions.

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