Gingivitis is a common type of periodontal disease characterized by inflammation of the gums. The common symptoms of gingivitis are swollen, tender, red, and bleeding gums.
Gingivitis is most often caused by a bacterial infection that spreads to the gums from the buildup of plaque. It can affect both children and adults who have poor oral hygiene.
The bacteria that leads to gingivitis can be spread through saliva. This means that if you have gingivitis, you can spread that bacteria through saliva-to-saliva contact, whether you have visible inflammation or not. If the other person’s overall dental health is poor, they may be more likely to develop gingivitis from this exposure.
In this article, we’ll explore how contagious gingivitis is and how to maintain good oral health to avoid developing or spreading gingivitis.
Saliva helps protect against some of the bacteria you commonly encounter in your mouth. You’re unlikely to get gingivitis through kissing, but people who have poor oral health may be more susceptible to the exchange of bacteria during kissing. This exposure (combined with poor oral health) may lead to gingivitis.
Babies are also at an increased risk of developing gingivitis due to their growing immune systems. When a parent with gingivitis kisses a baby on the lips, it’s possible to spread the bacteria to the baby’s mouth.
In fact, parent-to-child transmission of gingivitis isn’t all that rare. Many studies, including one from 2008, suggest that children are more likely to have gum disease if their parents do, as a result of shared bacteria.
If you have gingivitis, it’s best to avoid kissing others until the condition has been treated. This can help prevent the spread of bacteria to anyone who may be vulnerable to it.
Although kissing and sharing a drink aren’t exactly the same activity, saliva can be exchanged through both.
If you have gingivitis, the bacteria in your saliva can spread to the outside of a cup or straw you’ve used. If someone else drinks from the same cup or straw, that bacteria may spread to their mouth.
It’s unlikely that someone will develop gingivitis by simply drinking from the same cup as someone with the disease. But it depends on the person’s immune system and oral health. People with poorer dental health are more susceptible to the spread of bacteria in the mouth.
If you have gingivitis, it’s important to minimize sharing drinks with family members, friends, or loved ones until the condition has been treated.
Sharing eating utensils, toothbrushes, or anything else that has been in someone else’s mouth can expose you to their saliva. If they have an excess of bacteria in their mouth, as with gingivitis or gum disease, you may be more likely to be exposed to that bacteria.
Being exposed to the bacteria doesn’t mean you’ll definitely develop gingivitis. The condition generally happens due to long-term issues with maintaining oral health. If you have poor oral hygiene, you may be at an increased risk of developing a bacterial infection that leads to gingivitis.
If you or someone close to you has gingivitis, the best way to avoid spreading bacteria is to avoid saliva-to-saliva contact. This means not sharing kisses, drinks, utensils, or anything else mouth-related until treatment is underway.
Preventing gingivitis and other periodontal diseases is an important part of keeping your mouth healthy for a lifetime. Here are some tips for maintaining good oral hygiene and preventing gingivitis.
Practice good oral hygiene
Good oral hygiene is a lifelong practice of healthy habits, such as daily brushing and flossing, that help to keep your teeth and gums in good shape. Good oral hygiene involves:
- brushing your teeth at least twice a day
- flossing your teeth at least once a day
- getting professional dental cleanings regularly
Using a good fluoride toothpaste helps keep your teeth clean and free from plaque buildup, and flossing removes food particles and debris from between your teeth. Both habits are important to get rid of unwanted bacteria and keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Visit the dentist regularly
Going to the dentist every 6 months isn’t just necessary for kids — adults need regular dental care too.
Getting dental cleanings at least twice a year can help prevent the plaque buildup that contributes to gingivitis. A dentist can also do an exam to diagnose and treat any issues that could lead to gingivitis or periodontitis.
Keep your health in check
It’s no surprise that there’s a connection between a healthy mouth and a healthy body. Some lifestyle habits, such as smoking or chewing tobacco, can lead to poor oral health by damaging the sensitive tissue of your mouth.
Certain foods can also directly affect your dental health. For example, foods rich in fiber, like fruits and vegetables, can help keep your gums clean. And foods that promote saliva production, such as dairy and sugarless gum, can help keep plaque from building up in your mouth.
Eating a balanced diet full of whole foods with plenty of nutrients can help support good oral health.
Good oral hygiene can help you maintain good oral health, which is an important part of your overall health. Poor oral health can potentially lead to other health conditions, such as:
Brushing your teeth regularly, visiting the dentist for regular cleanings, and maintaining a balanced diet can help keep your mouth — and your health — in great shape.
If you’ve noticed the following symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist:
- inflamed or swollen gums
- red or tender gums
- bleeding gums
- bad breath
These symptoms could indicate an underlying bacterial infection that has developed into gingivitis or periodontitis.
Your dentist can help diagnose and treat your gingivitis. Gingivitis is generally treated with a thorough professional cleaning from a dentist or, in more severe cases, a periodontist.
After the cleaning, you’ll be expected to maintain good oral hygiene at home while your gums heal from the infection.
Gingivitis is one of the most prevalent types of periodontal disease, affecting both children and adults. It’s caused by plaque buildup due to poor oral hygiene, which can lead to the spread of bacteria in your gums.
Although experts generally agree that gingivitis itself isn’t contagious, people who have gingivitis can spread the bacteria through saliva-to-saliva contact.
Good oral hygiene habits — including frequent tooth brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings — are the first line of defense against the development and spread of gingivitis.