Can You Spread Gum Disease To Another Person?

Written by LVMC on

Knowing whether or not gum disease can spread from one person to another can help people reduce their risk for this oral condition and maintain healthy teeth and gums.

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Knowing whether or not gum disease can spread from one person to another can help people reduce their risk for this oral condition and maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Gum disease is common in the U.S., where it affects more than 47% of adults over the age of 30, says the CDC. Some people wonder whether it is possible to spread gum disease to another person, such as when kissing or sharing utensils. Knowing what causes gum disease and whether or not it is contagious can help you reduce your risk for this serious oral health condition.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis. It occurs when an infection destroys gum tissues and bones that surround the teeth. These infections cause the gums to gradually pull away from the teeth, leading to loose teeth that fall out.

When not treated, gum disease can lead to many other health problems. It can cause chronic bad breath, bleeding gums, and chewing pain. The bacteria in gum disease can also enter the bloodstream through the gums and travel to other parts of the body. When it affects other body parts, gum disease may cause other chronic conditions such as arthritis or heart disease.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease is mainly caused by bacteria that build up in the mouth. This bacteria is usually the result of plaque.

Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on the teeth after long periods of not brushing. However, certain foods and substances can cause plaque to build up even if you brush regularly. For instance, nicotine and sugary foods like candies and donuts commonly lead to plaque buildup.

Over time, plaque can harden to form a substance called tartar. Tartar is also known as calculus. Tartar can be difficult to remove from teeth without dental tools. Eventually, tartar can spread below the gum, becoming even more difficult to reach. Tartar that grows below the gum line can eventually cause an infection that turns into gum disease.

Is Gum Disease Contagious?

Gum disease itself is not contagious. If you have this disease, it will not spread to another person when you sneeze, cough, or laugh. It also cannot spread if you kiss someone else, or if you share your cups and utensils. However, it may be possible for you to spread oral bacteria to someone else if you practice these behaviors.

People with gum disease usually have a high amount of oral bacteria. This bacteria is what usually causes plaque and tartar buildup, and gingivitis. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that causes gum inflammation.

If you have gingivitis, you can transfer oral bacteria to another person if you share saliva with them, such as when kissing. Oral bacteria can also spread if an uninfected person uses your toothbrush, cups, or utensils. In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Periodontology, researchers looked at whether people with advanced gum disease could transmit the disease to their family members. They found that kids were more likely to get gum disease if their parents had it, due to sharing bacteria.

Oral bacteria can potentially increase your risk of getting gingivitis and gum disease from someone else, but only if you meet other risk factors for these diseases. Being exposed to oral bacteria from someone who has gum disease does not necessarily mean you will also get this disease.

What Are Risk Factors For Gum Disease?

Poor oral hygiene may be the top risk factor for gum disease, but it isn’t the only risk factor. Other risk factors for gum disease include:

  • Using tobacco products, like cigarettes or chewing tobacco.
  • Dry mouth. Dehydration can cause dry mouth, as well as some medications. Antidepressants, diuretics, and blood pressure medications are some of the many types of medications that can cause dry mouth.
  • Using recreational drugs that can be smoked. Marijuana, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine are examples of illicit, recreational drugs that can be smoked.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Obesity.
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances. Menopause and pregnancy are examples of hormonal changes that may cause gum disease.
  • Genetics.
  • Conditions that cause poor immunity. HIV/AIDS and leukemia are examples of health conditions that can reduce immunity.
  • Stress.
  • Diabetes.
  • Crooked teeth. Crooked teeth can sometimes be more difficult to clean than straight teeth.
  • Cavity fillings that are old, or defective.
  • Poorly fitting bridges.

What Are Signs Of Gum Disease?

A dentist can usually spot early signs of gum disease. This is why it’s vital to see your dentist regularly for cleanings. Your dentist also has access to special tools that can clean off plaque and tartar buildup, even if it’s below your gum line.

Signs and symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Gums that bleed easily, especially when brushing your teeth or flossing.
  • Gums that are sensitive to the touch.
  • Gums that are puffy or swollen.
  • Gums that are dark pink, red, or purple.
  • Bad breath.
  • Loose teeth, or tooth loss.
  • Pain when chewing.
  • New gaps or spaces between your teeth.
  • Receding gums. This is when your gums pull away from the teeth to make your teeth look longer.
  • Changes in your bite.
  • Changes in the way your dentures fit.
  • Pus that forms between your teeth and gums.

Can Gum Disease Be Prevented?

It is usually possible to prevent gum disease, considering how all its risk factors can often be avoided. The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to familiarize yourself with its risk factors and live the healthiest lifestyle possible.

Ways to prevent gum disease include:

  • Not smoking or using tobacco products. If you smoke, try to quit as soon as possible. Ask your doctor about effective treatments for smoking cessation.
  • Maintaining good saliva production. Saliva naturally washes away germs and bacteria that can lead to gum disease. Things you can do to maintain good saliva production include drinking lots of water and eating healthy, crunchy foods like carrots and celery.
  • Stopping the use of medications that cause dry mouth. If your medications are causing dry mouth, talk to your doctor about the possibility of stopping or switching medications. If this is not possible, commit to drinking more water throughout the day to minimize dry mouth.
  • Not using recreational drugs.
  • Eating only healthy, nutritious foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish are examples of healthy foods loaded with nutrients that are great for oral health. Lack of vitamin C has been linked to gum disease; therefore, you can eat more foods with vitamin C.
  • Limiting your intake of sugar. Sugary foods can “stick” to your teeth and contribute to plaque and tartar buildup. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish are examples of healthy foods loaded with nutrients that are great for oral health. Lack of vitamin C has been linked to gum disease; therefore, you can eat more foods with vitamin C.
  • Losing excess weight. Obesity is a risk factor for gum disease.
  • Balancing your hormones. Sometimes you cannot avoid hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or menopause. However, your doctor can talk to you about ways to balance your hormones, such as hormone replacement therapy, exercise, and/or good nutrition.
  • Strengthening your immune system. A strong immune system can reduce your risk for illnesses and diseases, including gum disease. Exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, and eating healthy foods can all help strengthen your immune system.
  • Managing stress. Stress can increase your body’s production of a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can drive inflammation and hormonal imbalances to increase the risk of gum disease.
  • Getting teeth straightened. Crooked teeth can make it difficult for you to floss or brush away bacteria using a toothbrush. If your teeth are crooked, ask your dentist whether you can benefit from braces or other treatments that can straighten your teeth.
  • Replacing old fillings. Over time, cavity fillings can become chipped, fall out, or degrade. This can increase your risk for bacteria buildup and gum disease. Ask your dentist about getting your fillings replaced if they are old or defective.
  • Practicing good oral health. Brush and floss your teeth twice a day or when needed. Having a clean mouth can help you reduce your risk for plaque and tartar buildup that can lead to gum disease.
  • Seeing your dentist regularly. Make appointments to see your dentist at least every six months for cleanings and checkups. Your dentist can perform a professional cleaning and examine your teeth for early signs of gum disease.

How Is Gum Disease Usually Treated?

Mild cases of gum disease can usually be treated and reversed with a professional cleaning by a dentist. Your dentist will perform scaling and root planing. Scaling involves the use of instruments that remove tartar buildup. Root planing involves smoothing out the surfaces of your tooth roots so the gums can tighten and reattach to your teeth.

In advanced cases of gum disease, your dentist may need to perform a type of surgery. For instance, your dentist may need to cut your gum open further to scrape away tartar below the gum line. Or, your dentist may need to implant new bone to replace lost or damaged bone.

There are several types of surgery that can be performed to treat gum disease. Your dentist can talk to you about all your options based on the severity of your disease.

Managing Your Health With Lompoc Valley Medical Center

Lompoc Valley Medical Center offers a wide range of healthcare services and is home to a large team of board-certified doctors who can diagnose and treat nearly every health condition. Contact us today at (805) 737-3382 to request an appointment and learn more about our many healthcare services.

LVMC
Written by
LVMC
Editorial Staff