Is Gum Disease Contagious?

A man and woman covering their mouths and looking at each other.

When a friend or family member is sick, people tend to keep their distance so they don’t catch the illness. You might refrain from hugging, kissing, or sharing a drink with someone to ensure you stay healthy. The same thing applies when someone has a cold sore on their lip. Even just one sip of their drink, and you may notice a cold sore on your lip the next day.

Something that these viruses have in common is they both have noticeable symptoms. It’s easy to tell when someone has a cold or the flu, and cold sores are often very prominently visible. Gum disease, on the other hand, is a condition that’s much less noticeable, but studies show that it can spread easier than you’d think.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is a common dental issue that many people develop at some point in their lives. It occurs when your gums become infected by bacteria. This condition, also called periodontal disease, is often caused by poor oral hygiene. When bacteria isn’t removed from your teeth, it can spread into your gums and cause them to become infected.

Periodontal disease starts minor, but it can quickly become severe. During the first stage, known as gingivitis, you may not even notice any symptoms at all. However, the infection will progress into periodontitis without treatment, resulting in a range of painful and inconvenient symptoms.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

Do you notice bleeding while flossing or even brushing your teeth? This is often one of the first signs that people notice when they have gum disease. They might not think anything of it, and just assume their gums are sensitive. However, it’s crucial to be aware of your oral health and contact your dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Red, swollen gums
  • Pain while chewing
  • Loose or separated teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Mouth sores

According to Dr. Thomas Fraser in West Palm Beach, FL, gum disease can eventually lead to tooth loss, which is why it’s important to seek treatment right away.

A woman with her hand to her chin

How is Periodontal Disease Spread?

When bacteria enters your mouth, it travels fast. It first settles into your teeth and then moves to your gums if not rinsed out. It’s spread through saliva, so simply touching another area of your mouth with your tongue can be enough to transfer it to your entire mouth.

Since bacteria is microscopic, it grows fast and becomes trapped under your gumline. If you’ve had gum disease in the past and received treatment, make sure to throw away old dental tools so the bacteria don’t re-infect your gums.

Who’s At Risk of Catching the Disease?

Due to how rapidly it spreads, it’s very possible to catch gum disease from someone you know and vice versa. Just like when you have the flu, sharing a drink or even kissing your significant other can increase your risk for gum disease.

However, just because you share food or a beverage with someone that has the condition doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to develop it as well. If you’re careful to brush and floss your teeth after coming in contact with infected saliva, you’re likely to protect yourself from gum disease.

Certain people are more vulnerable to gum disease than others. This includes those with poor oral hygiene habits or weak immune systems. Dentists like Dr. Michelle Aldrich in Salem, OR have found that children are at a higher risk since they’re still developing and learning how to brush their teeth thoroughly.

Treating Your Condition

Aside from causing pain and sensitivity, gum disease can also lead to more serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Luckily, there are multiple treatment options that experienced dentists like Dr. Eric Koch in East Texas have perfected.

The first step to eliminating gum disease is scheduling a consultation so the dentist can evaluate you and determine which of the following treatments is best for you.

Scaling and Root Planing

One of the most basic treatment methods is called scaling and root planing. During this simple procedure, your dentist will remove the bacteria under your gums through a process called scaling. Then, they’ll smooth out the roots to protect it from future bacteria in a process called root planing.

Antibiotics

If the condition is mild enough, you may be prescribed an antibiotic cream or rinse. You’ll be required to use it in addition to your regular oral hygiene routine.

Surgery

When gum disease reaches a certain level of severity, oral surgery may be the only way to fully restore your gums. In some cases, your dentist may need to create a flap in your gums that they can access and remove the bacteria through.

After the plaque is cleaned out, you may need to receive a bone or gum tissue graft. This is done to restore any parts of your gums or jawbone that were destroyed due to your condition.

A man outside smiling and looking up

Be Aware and Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Although it may seem minor at first, gum disease is a serious condition that spreads quickly. If you or a loved one has it, it’s crucial not to share any food or beverages until your condition is treated. However, if you do come in contact with disease-infected saliva, gum disease can easily be prevented as long as you’re maintaining a good oral hygiene routine.