When Ludacris sings about li-li-licking someone from their head to their toes, it sounds super sexy. But, honestly, while the licking part of sex and foreplay may feel really good, its aftermath (aka, all that dried spit on your skin) can be a little off-putting. Because dried spit sometimes smells kinda gross.
Some people might not mind or even notice the smell that much, but there's a science-backed reason that saliva smells worse dry than wet, even if the person doing the licking doesn't have bad breath.
"In saliva, the liquid is not what smells bad," says Mahvish Ahmed, DDS, a dentist at Smile Design Manhattan. "It's the bacteria that lives within the mouth." Everyone has mouth bacteria, although certain habits do affect the amount of bacteria. Some of the bacteria in your mouth are anaerobic, meaning that they don't need oxygen to survive, Dr. Ahmed says. And that's the bacteria that smells the worst, because it gives off a sulphur smell. "As soon as the saliva dries up, you're left with residual bacteria, and that's what you're smelling," she says.
Saliva will smell worse if the person licking you doesn't brush their teeth as often as they should, smokes, drinks a lot of alcohol, has a dry mouth, or has a yellow or white-coated tongue, or is on the Keto diet, Dr. Ahmed says — essentially, anything that helps anaerobic bacteria grow. "Everybody has a quality to their saliva smell, whether it's more sweet or sour or odorous," she explains. Anyone who has a more acidic diet (such as anyone who eats a lot of meat and dairy) will also have worse-smelling saliva because anaerobic bacteria love acidic environments.
So if you or your partner are worried about the smell of your spit interfering with your sexy times, try using a non-alcoholic mouthwash (one with hydrogen peroxide is particularly good at killing bacteria) or drinking water with a higher pH than typical water, Dr. Ahmed suggests. That can help keep the acid in balance and might lower the amount of anaerobic bacteria in your mouth. And if you're super into the head-to-toe licking, but can't stand the smell of dried saliva, maybe make a beeline for the shower before it gets a chance to dry.