Can gum disease spread through kissing?

Photo by Anna Sastre on Unsplash

Maybe. This is disputable and depends on whom you ask. Many factors that lead to gum disease are a person’s actions (poor dental hygiene, not flossing of teeth, crooked teeth, smoking, medications like antiseizure tablets and steroids, a bad diet containing heavy amounts of sugar and carbohydrates). Dentists who have researched this say that gingivitis-causing bacteria (A. actinomycetemcomitans, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Streptococcus mutans) can be exchanged between romantic partners and from parents to off-springs by sharing drinking cups, utensils, saliva and other items. Some studies indicate that salivary contact is common in people cohabiting a place, such as family settings, and this occurs through coughing, sneezing, and shared utensils and food. At present, the American Dental Association (ADA) reviews gingivitis to be contagious, as expressed in Journal of the American Dental Association. However, abovementioned factors usually need to be present for any person to develop gingivitis.

Just because you exchange bacteria with your loved ones doesn’t mean you will get periodontal disease. Anyone can pass bacteria to anyone via kissing. We have our own set of bacterial flora, in our own specific environment. When people share saliva through a method mentioned above, bacteria in and around the gum/periodontal tissue get transferred. Our mouths contain a mixture of both bad, opportunistic and good bacteria. These “bad” bacteria are the ones that cause cavities and gum disease when given a chance. Kissing someone with gum disease can cause the other person (who previously had a low concentration of “bad” bacteria) to “catch” gum disease and other dental problems.

Studies show that gum disease is caused by the inflammatory reaction of bacteria underneath the gums, so periodontal disease technically may not be contagious. On the other hand, these bad or harmful bacteria are a cause of inflammation spread through saliva, which is why it is considered by some experts to be contagious.

All fears aside, gum disease is not contagious through casual contact. However, intimate contact such as kissing over a long period of time could increase the likelihood of transmitting bacteria and therefore the disease (in a way) to the significant other. Researchers have found that these specific oral bacteria are only transmitted when exposure has occurred over a long period of time.

A healthy immune system can take control of this infection, but if someone is exposed to such flora, their immune system becomes stressed. Good thing that you don’t need to swear off kissing for life because exchanging bad bacteria won’t automatically give you gum disease. This condition is one of the most common we find that patients either ignore or their doctor doesn’t explain. A lot of people do not show any symptoms whereas they have had these harmful bacteria for years. As soon as the inflammation begins by the bacteria, symptoms of gum disease can be seen.

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