Is gum disease contagious?

Brian Maurer
July 16, 2021
Oral Health and Lifestyle Advice
3
minute read

Gum disease is fairly common, with around 47.2% of American adults[1] having some form of periodontitis.

Have you ever wondered how you get gum disease? Is gum disease contagious so you can catch it by kissing or sharing a drink with someone? Or is it hereditary and your parents have doomed (or spared) you from the ravages of gingivitis?

Let’s find out.

How does gum disease occur?

First of all, it’s important to understand what gum disease is and how it occurs. Symptoms of gum disease (or gingivitis) include swelling, inflammation, and sensitivity in the gums. You may experience bleeding gums when flossing or brushing and the condition can become painful if not treated. Bad breath is also a common sign.

Gum disease is caused by bad bacteria thriving in your mouth. Sticky plaque and hard tartar can form on your teeth if you don’t regularly clean them. These substances provide a safe place for the bacteria to sit on your teeth for a long period of time and prosper. 

This is why people with poor oral hygiene routines are at higher risk of gum disease. Genetic factors as well as your immune system have an effect as well.

If gum disease is left untreated it can develop into periodontal disease and eventually lead to tooth loss.

What bacteria causes gum disease?

There are over 6 billion bacteria[2], including 700 different species of oral bacteria. Some of these bacteria are helpful for promoting oral health and keeping your teeth strong.

Unfortunately, some of these strains of bacteria cause gingivitis and other oral health issues, and may even cause or worsen other serious diseases like heart disease and dementia.

These bacteria[3] include delightful names such as A. actinomycetemcomitans, P. gingivalis, P. intermedia, and B. forsythus, among others.

Is gum disease contagious?

Here’s the big question that may have popped into your head. Can you catch gum disease through kissing?

Strictly speaking, gum disease isn’t really contagious. However, the bacteria that cause gum problems can be spread from person to person.

This can happen through kissing, drinking from the same cup or straw, sharing eating utensils, or any other activity that allows saliva between two people. The bacteria can hitch a ride along with the saliva from the first person and be transferred to the second person.

However, there is no hard rule about the second person developing gum disease. A person with a good dental health routine is unlikely to develop any problems. The reason for this is that their good habits destroy the bacteria before it can begin its nefarious work.

Is gum disease hereditary/genetic?

Is gum disease genetic? Are your genes or hormones to blame for your dental problems?

Genetics has some effect[4] on your risk of gum disease. That is why sometimes even people with good dental hygiene can develop the disease and other people who barely take care of their teeth are doing fine.

However, a good oral care routine is important for everyone. If your dentist identifies you as being at higher risk of gum disease, it is vital to be even more vigilant in caring for your teeth.

Can you pass gum disease to your kids?

Yes and no. If you are more susceptible to gum disease because of your genetics, you can pass this susceptibility on to your kids.

Furthermore, if you have an active case of gum disease and kiss on the lips or share drinks or food with your kids, you can pass the bad bacteria to them. If they have poor oral hygiene habits or are genetically more susceptible to gum disease, this can create a hospitable environment for the bacteria to grow.

So yes, you can pass a propensity for gum disease and the bacteria that causes it. However, you can’t directly pass the disease. Just because your child has been exposed to someone with gum disease doesn’t mean they will develop it.

Keeping each other safe from gum disease

Though gum disease is common, it is also fairly simple to protect yourself. Regular tooth brushing and flossing go a long way towards keeping your mouth healthy and strong. You can check out our guide on how to brush and floss properly here. Regular visits to the dentist for a teeth cleaning will further decrease your chances of developing problems.

Eating a healthy diet also helps. Sugary food and drinks give bad bacteria exactly what it needs to thrive in your mouth. However, crunchy fruits and vegetables can help remove plaque and make it harder for the bacteria to grow. You can read more about how diet affects your oral health here.

Wondering about the types of bacteria that are living in your mouth? Send us a saliva sample today to find out! The sooner you take up arms against the bad bacteria in your mouth, the more easily you can win the battle.

 


[1] "Periodontal Disease | Oral Health Conditions | Division of Oral ...." https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html. Accessed 11 Jul. 2021.

[2] "Bacteria in Your Mouth Can Affect Your Brain - Healthline." 5 May. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/bacteria-in-your-mouth-can-find-its-way-to-your-brain. Accessed 11 Jul. 2021.

[3] "Dental plaque revisited: bacteria associated with periodontal disease." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15143484/. Accessed 11 Jul. 2021.

[4] "Gum Disease Risk Factors | Perio.org." https://www.perio.org/consumer/gum-disease-risk-factors. Accessed 11 Jul. 2021.


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