We had a young patient visit our office recently (early 20s in age), and he asked us a very curious question: “My girlfriend told me she has a gum infection, so does that mean I can get infected too if I kiss her?” While it may seem like a silly question, he brought up a good point: can oral health infections like gum disease be transferred through saliva like kissing? Join us today in Nashville, TN as we take a look at if this is possible.
What is Gum Disease?
First thing’s first: what exactly is gum disease? Gum disease (also known periodontal disease when it’s more serious) is when a bacterial infection gets under your gums, causing red, inflamed, and occasional bleeding. If left untreated, it can worsen and cause your gums to recede, become discolored or bleed more. Take longer still, and the support around your teeth can start to weaken and your teeth could fall out entirely. All of this is a result of either neglecting to brush or floss, avoiding dental visits, or putting too much force on your gums and leaving them exposed.
“So, is it contagious?”
Alright, let’s get to the meat of the issue. Technically speaking, gum disease is not transferrable through small acts like kissing or sharing food. However, it’s very possible that it can transfer when you share eating utensils that haven’t been cleaned, or if you share dental devices like dentures or retainers. What’s more, it can be more contagious if the gum disease has reached the stage of periodontal disease. Any exchange of large amounts of saliva can put you at risk for bacterial transfer, but only if you are also poor at maintaining good oral health.
So, in the boyfriend’s case, if his girlfriend just has sensitive or red gums, he shouldn’t have to worry. However, if he had told us that her gums bled a lot or were starting to recede more, we would have advised her to visit us for an evaluation.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
We all love to kiss our loved ones, but the thought of transferring diseases can leave us feeling wary sometimes. While gum disease is not life-threatening in its early stages, it can progress if not properly taken care of. Let’s take a look at some helpful tips to avoid gum disease altogether:
- Oral Care: Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash are top ways to keep your teeth looking and feeling fresh. When flossing, don’t dig too hard into your gums, and use the floss to scoop out food particles. Don’t pack it deeper into the gums!
- Dental Cleanings: On top of good oral care at home, it’s important to also visit the dentist at least twice a year (every six months). At Dentistry of Nashville, we can provide comprehensive dental cleanings to get rid of the worst of the plaque, tartar, and other buildup that the naked eye can’t see.
- Watch Out for Warning Signs: While we may try our best to prevent gum disease, sometimes it crops up as the result of another infection or something more severe like sudden tooth loss. In these cases, keep an eye out for discoloration in your gums, bleeding when you floss, or if your teeth start looking longer (a sign of gum recession).
- LANAP: If your gum disease has progressed to the point where it needs treatment, one option is LANAP. As a laser gum surgery, it leaves little to no scarring and can be completed in one visit – no suturing or cutting needed.
Got Gum Disease Fears? Check with Dentistry of Nashville
So now that you know that gum disease isn’t as easily transferred as our young patient thought, it’s still important that you check for gum disease as you age. The warning signs may not be instant, but it’s important that you let Drs. Elam, Vaughan, and Fleming know about your condition. Contact us today if you need to schedule a consultation in Nashville, TN!