Is gingivitis contagious? The answer is: it’s complicated and depends on which experts you ask.
Gingivitis happens when bacteria in the mouth irritate the gums. It is possible that the initial spread of those gingivitis-causing bacteria spread from mothers to their children. In fact, by the age of 3 years, children are about 26 times more likely to have gingivitis-causing bacteria in their mouths if their mothers also have that strain of bacterium there. Cohabitating men and women can develop similar bacteria in their mouths by sharing utensils or food, or through kissing and other direct or indirect physical contact.
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is a form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, which causes irritation, redness, and swelling of the gums. It usually develops when a thin layer of sticky, invisible film, known as plaque, develops on the teeth. Plaque is composed mainly of bacteria created when sugars and starches in food interact with the bacteria that normally live in your mouth.
Plaque forms quickly in the mouth, so you need to remove it daily. Left in your mouth, the plaque can harden under the gum line, turn into tartar, and collect more bacteria. Together, the bacteria and hardened plaque can irritate your gum. In time, your gums start to swell around the base of your teeth; they begin to bleed easily, especially when you brush. Inflammation of your gums also allows pockets to develop. Bacteria settle into these pockets to cause gum infections. Tooth decay (cavities) may develop.
Untreated gingivitis can lead to a more advanced type of periodontal disease, known as periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss and other serious complications.
Dangers of Gingivitis
While gingivitis is technically the early form of gum disease, it can have serious and long-lasting effects. The bleeding and inflammation of gingivitis can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where the bacteria can spread and cause disease in other parts of the body.
People with gum disease have a two to three times higher risk of having a heart attack or other serious cardiovascular event, for example. One study, which calls gum disease “one of the most infectious diseases in humans,” shows gingivitis and periodontitis as risk factors for stroke. In another study, researchers discovered that the bacteria that causes gingivitis (P. gingivalis) was also present in the esophagus of 61 percent of patients with esophageal cancer. The American Heart Association acknowledges the connection between gum disease and high blood pressure.
How does gingivitis spread?
The American Academy of Periodontology says that the bacteria that cause the inflammatory reaction associated with gum disease can spread through saliva. This means one person can spread the bacteria to another person by sharing toothbrushes or eating utensils. Mothers can pass gingivitis-causing bacteria to their babies through saliva; couples may transmit the bacteria while kissing.
How do you get rid of gingivitis?
Practice good oral hygiene
Brushing twice daily and flossing once a day can remove much of the plaque and bacteria on your teeth before they harden into tartar. Only professional teeth cleaning can remove the plaque and bacteria once it has hardened into tartar.
Smoking is an important cause of gum disease. Smoking weakens the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight a gum infection. In fact, a smoker has twice the risk for gum disease than does a non-smoker, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The longer a person smokes – and the more cigarettes or other tobacco products a person smokes – the higher the risk of gum disease. Furthermore, treatments for gum disease do not work as well for smokers as they do for non-smokers.
Avoid sugary drinks
The bacteria that cause gingivitis feed on sugar to grow into plaque. Sugary drinks coat your teeth and gums in sugar, which creates an inviting environment for the bacteria to grow. The bacteria make acids that wear down tooth enamel to cause cavities. In addition to sugar, sweetened drinks also contain acids that make teeth even weaker.
Make an appointment with us today!
See your dental team at Triangle Dentistry. Founded on the principle of educating patients to achieve the best oral health possible, Triangle Dentistry encourages active participation of our patients. Every member of the Triangle Dentistry team is committed to providing exceptional dental care to every patient we see. Make an appointment with Triangle Dentistry today by calling 919-847-6000. New patients receive a special gift.
Triangle Dentistry, located in Raleigh, NC, provides a state-of-the-art facility that offers exceptional general dental and specialty services guided by empathy of a patient’s needs and desires. Services range from dental crowns to veneers and whitening procedures. For further information, questions, or to schedule an appointment, contact the office at (919) 847-6000