Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gingiva. It is the early stage of gum disease. If gingivitis is left untreated, the infection may spread to the tooth-supporting tissues. This condition is known as periodontitis, which is a serious form of gum disease. Untreated gingivitis and periodontitis can cause complications such as pain, dental abscess, tooth mobility, tooth loss, and an increased risk of premature birth. So, how gingivitis occurs, and is it contagious?
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease. It usually occurs due to plaque build-up – a film of bacteria that forms on your teeth every day. Plaque bacteria produce toxins that irritate the gums. Dental plaque can be easily removed by tooth brushing and flossing. If plaque is not removed regularly, it can harden into tartar, which is difficult to clean. So, you will need to visit your dentist for professional teeth cleaning. Gingivitis and periodontitis are not contagious. However, gingivitis-causing bacteria can spread from one person to another through saliva. Exposure to gingivitis-causing bacteria increases the risk of gingivitis, depending on your oral health and immune system.
Are Gingivitis & Periodontitis Contagious?
Gingivitis and periodontitis are bacterial infections. Gingivitis-causing bacteria include Streptococcus mutans, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Porphyromonas gingivalis. Gingivitis and periodontitis themselves are not contagious but these bacteria can spread from one person to another through saliva or shared foods and drinks. Being exposed to these bacteria won’t make you develop gingivitis but other factors need to be present.
Gingivitis-causing bacteria are contagious, which means that they can be transmitted from one person to another by kissing or sharing drinks. If you kissed or shared drinks with someone who has gingivitis or periodontitis, you will be exposed to the bacteria but that doesn’t mean you will develop gingivitis. Bacteria alone won’t cause gingivitis but other factors need to be present. The following factors may weaken your immune system, making it easier for bacteria to grow and harder for your body to fight gingivitis or periodontitis.
- Poor oral hygiene: it encourages the accumulation of plaque on teeth surfaces. Dental plaque produces toxins that cause the inflammation of the surrounding gum tissues. Also, food particles provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria to grow.
- Dry mouth condition: saliva fights bacteria and neutralizes acids produced by them. A dry mouth can allow gingivitis-causing bacteria to grow.
- Smoking and chewing tobacco: smoking weakens your immune system and makes it harder for your body to fight infections. Also, smoking can cause dry mouth conditions. Some researches have shown that smoking increases the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Hormonal changes, which can cause gingivitis during pregnancy and the menstrual cycle.
- Poor nutrition: for example, vitamin-C deficiency. If your diet lacks some nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to fight infection.
- Some medical conditions: such as diabetes mellitus, certain viral and fungal infections
- Some medications: oral health may be affected by some medications, especially if they cause dry mouth as a side effect.
How Do Gingivitis-Causing Bacteria Spread?
Gingivitis and periodontitis themselves are not contagious, but gingivitis-causing bacteria can spread through saliva. This means that the risk of gingivitis increases with saliva-to-saliva contacts such as kissing and sharing eating utilities and drinks. If you have kissed or shared a drink with someone who has gingivitis or periodontitis, that doesn’t mean you will develop gingivitis, but gingivitis-causing bacteria could be transmitted to you. Don’t worry if you have good oral hygiene. Saliva plays an important role in oral health because it:
- Keeps your mouth moist.
- Help you chew, taste, and swallow.
- Fights bacteria in your mouth.
- Neutralizes acids produced by bacteria, preventing dental caries and gingivitis.
- It contains minerals that help in the reverse of the early stage of dental caries (remineralization).
Gingivitis-Causing Bacteria are Contagious Through Kissing
Gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease) themselves are not contagious but gingivitis-causing bacteria such as A. actinomycetemcomitans can spread through saliva. This means that gingivitis-causing bacteria are contagious and can spread from one person to another by kissing or sharing toothbrushes and eating utilities. Being exposed to bacteria doesn’t mean you will develop gingivitis. However, if you have poor oral hygiene, dry mouth condition, vitamin-C deficiency, or are smoking, you are at increased risk of developing gingivitis.
Babies and children are at increased risk of developing gingivitis because they have an immature immune system. When parents kiss babies on their lips, the gingivitis-causing bacteria (contagious) may spread to the baby’s mouth. According to several studies, babies are more likely to develop gum disease if their parents have gingivitis or periodontitis. Avoid kissing others if you have gingivitis or periodontitis to prevent the spread of bacteria. Visit your dentist for diagnosis and treatment Gingivitis can be reversed.
Gingivitis-Causing Bacteria are Contagious Through Sharing Drinks and Eating Utilities
Gingivitis-causing bacteria can spread through saliva-to-saliva contact. Like kissing, bacteria can be exchanged through sharing cups, straws, toothbrushes, and eating utilities. If you drink from someone’s cup or straw, bacteria can spread to your mouth. The spread of bacteria doesn’t mean that you will develop gingivitis, but it depends on your oral health and immune system. If you are a smoker or have poor oral hygiene, dry mouth condition, or diabetes mellitus, you are susceptible to gingivitis. So, avoid sharing cups, straws, eating utilities, or toothbrushes with others. Also, maintain good oral hygiene.
How Do You Know You Have Gingivitis?
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of gingivitis and periodontitis can help you treat them early and prevent complications. Also, avoid kissing your child if you have these signs and symptoms to prevent the spread of bacteria:
- Red, swollen gums.
- Gum bleeding when brushing or flossing.
- Bad breath.
- Gums are tender to touch.
- Gum recession.
What to Do If I Have Gingivitis or Periodontitis?
If you noticed any of the previous signs and symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist will use an ultrasonic scaler to remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline. Also, they can identify the underlying cause and treat it. After the cleaning, you should maintain good oral hygiene at home while your gums heal. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to help fight infection.
Gingivitis home remedies can help clear the signs and symptoms of gingivitis, but they have limitations. Home remedies can’t remove tartar from above and below the gum line and can’t treat periodontitis.
How to Prevent Gingivitis & the Spread of Contagious Bacteria?
You can prevent gingivitis by improving your oral health and strengthen your immune system.
- Maintain good oral hygiene: brush your teeth at least twice daily to remove plaque and gingivitis-causing bacteria from gums and teeth surfaces. Also, use dental floss to remove plaque and food particles from between teeth.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: fluoride toothpaste can help keep your teeth and gums healthy and fight plaque bacteria.
- Don’t share eating utilities or toothbrushes: avoid sharing toothbrushes, cups, straws, and eating utilities to prevent the spread of gingivitis-causing bacteria, which are contagious.
- Stop smoking: smoking can weaken your immune system and make it hard for your body to fight infection.
- Eat a healthy diet: foods rich-in-fiber, for example, fruits and vegetables, can help keep your teeth and gums clean. Also, they contain nutrients that are essential for the human body.
- Keep your health in check: there is a connection between your oral health and body health. So, visit your doctor to perform a regular check-up and manage existing medical conditions.
- Visit your dentist regularly: both plaque and tartar irritate the gum tissues. Tartar can’t be removed by brushing or flossing. So, you need to visit your dentist once every six months for professional teeth cleaning.
- Gingivitis and periodontitis themselves are not contagious, but gingivitis-causing bacteria are.
- Gingivitis-causing bacteria can spread from one person to another through saliva-to-saliva contacts, for example, kissing or sharing toothbrushes, cups, straws, and eating utilities.
- Being exposed to the gingivitis-causing bacteria doesn’t mean you will develop gingivitis, but other factors need to be present.
- If you have poor oral hygiene, dry mouth condition, vitamin-C deficiency, taking certain medications, or are a smoker, you are at increased risk of developing gingivitis.
- Babies are more likely to develop gum disease if their parents have gingivitis or periodontitis as a result of shared bacteria.
- Maintain good oral hygiene to prevent the development and spread of gingivitis.