Is gum disease contagious?
Up to three-quarters of Americans today may be living with some level of gingivitis or periodontal disease. Many may not even realize they are brewing serious inflammation and/or gum infection within their own mouths. However, once gum disease is diagnosed, a common question is “Is gum disease contagious?” The answer is slightly more complicated than you may expect.
What is gum disease?
First, it is helpful to understand what exactly the disease is. Gum disease progresses in stages, from gingivitis, which is an early stage in which plague (a combination of tartar, mucus, and food particles) begins to build up and irritate gums. As time passes, bacteria growth causes periodontitis (periodontal disease), which is gum disease in earnest.
Can you catch it?
While periodontitis itself is not contagious, the bacteria that is responsible for it can be passed through the saliva to others, increasing the risk for that other person to develop the disease as well. The bacteria that can cause gum disease lives in the crevices and fissures between teeth and in gums. So mouth-to-mouth contact can pass the disease along within the family or between partners.
Control the risk
The risk of contracting periodontitis via saliva transfer decreases if you:
- practices good oral hygiene
- visits their dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings
- keeps their stress manageable
- has a low genetic risk for the disease.
The risk increases, however, if:
- oral hygiene is poor
- you tend to clench or grind your teeth at night
- you smoke or take medication that causes dry mouth
- you have a genetic predisposition to gum disease
- You have diabetes or another immune suppressing disease
If you find out you have contracted gum disease, you have many options. The earlier you detect it, the easier the treatment will be. In the very early stages, a thorough professional cleaning by a qualified dentist, along with the addition of a prescription antibiotic, mouthwash, or gel that fights the bacteria, may be enough. Later stages may require deep cleaning of the gums, which can be more invasive depending on the severity.
Better yet, prevent it!
The best treatment is, of course, prevention. You can use mouthwashes, floss daily, brush very well, and visit your dentist at least every 6-12 months for a cleaning and basic checkup. With these preventative measures, you can keep gum disease away for good.
If you would like to learn more about gum disease prevention, please ask and I’ll reply by tomorrow.