“Your oral health says a lot about your overall health. Issues relating to your teeth and gums can have direct effects on the rest of your body. Gum disease in particular can affect your heart, brain, lungs and other areas.”
17 May 2022
Gum disease is a serious infection of the gums. Left unaddressed, it can have major consequences for your oral health, damaging your gums and jawbone. It’s important to always maintain good oral health in order to reduce the risk of conditions like this. The question, however, of gum disease transmission is somewhat complicated.
Gum disease is not a “disease” in the traditional sense. It’s a condition that is the result of a number of factors. gingivitis (gum inflammation) may lead to the condition, but having gingivitis alone does not mean you have gum disease.
There’s no known virus that causes the condition. So, no, you can’t catch gum disease from exchanging saliva with anybody. You can, however, transmit bad oral bacteria between you and your partner. This bacteria will contribute to gum disease but is not the singular cause. In order to best prevent gum disease, it’s essential to learn exactly what the risks associated with it are.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Typically, poor oral health will lead to a layer of plaque (bacteria) building up on your teeth. Without brushing and flossing regularly, this layer or plaque will start to harden into what’s known as tartar. A buildup of tartar can start to move under the gum line, causing inflammation and eventually infection.
There are a number of other health and lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of gum disease such as:
- Poor oral hygiene habits
- Genetic predispositions
- Certain medications
- Illnesses, such as cancer and diabetes
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy
- Faulty dental work
- Mouth breathing
The Stages of Gum Disease
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, has two stages. The early stage is called gingivitis, where the gums can become swollen, red and may bleed. This stage is reversible when treated properly. The second and much more serious stage is called Periodontitis. During this period the gums pull away from the tooth. This can cause bone loss and the loosening of teeth, resulting in severe negative impacts like teeth actually falling out. Although this stage is irreversible, it can be prevented from worsening with the proper treatment.
The Effects Of Gum Disease On Your Health
Your oral health says a lot about your overall health. Issues relating to your teeth and gums can have flow-on effects for the rest of your body. Gum disease in particular can affect many other parts of your body, including:
Gum disease can result in problems chewing and eating, constant or intermittent pain in your gums and even severe cases even contribute to tooth loss. Your gums are what keep your teeth in place and when that structure starts to lose its integrity your teeth are in serious danger.
People with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease. The oral bacteria enters your bloodstream through the diseased gums, leading to clogged arteries and other cardiac issues. This can increase your chance of a heart attack or stroke.
Studies have shown significant correlations between gum disease and conditions like Alzehierms.
Just like your heart and brain, bacteria entering your bloodstream can move to your lungs, causing respiratory issues like pneumonia.
Symptoms To Look Out For
- Bright red and swollen gums. Healthy gums should be pink and firm
- Bleeding gums – particularly when brushing teeth
- Gums tender to the touch
- Bad breath
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Receding gums
- Loose or shifting teeth
Is Gum Disease Contagious Through Kissing?
Saliva helps protect against some of the bacteria you commonly encounter in your mouth.
You’re unlikely to get gum disease 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 (gum disease). Gum disease and the bacteria that contribute to it can be shared when present in your mouth and saliva.
Researchers have found that these specific oral bacteria are only transmitted when exposure occurs over a prolonged period. Your body’s own immune system protects you from bacteria and other germs. It takes time and a lack of daily flossing or brushing for these bacteria to flourish. With constant exposure, your immune system becomes stressed fighting off this invasion. Your mouth is a portal to the rest of your body. The health of your mouth plays a huge role in the health of your body.
Gum Disease Treatment Options
The severity of the condition will dictate the treatment. There are both surgical and non-surgical options available.
Advanced cases may require surgeries such as bone grafting or soft tissue grafts. These procedures use a small amount of donor tissue or bone, usually from a patient’s own mouth, to reconstruct the damaged site. Regenerative procedures are also available, which utilise biocompatible fabric to prevent any bacteria from entering the damaged area and stimulate bone regrowth.
Non-surgical options are available for patients with less severe cases who don’t require such invasive treatments. Scaling performed by a dental professional will remove the harmful layer of tartar or plaque with specialised dental instruments. Antibiotics can also be used to control the infection. Applied topically or used as a mouthwash, these antibiotic liquids get into the hard to reach places that bacteria tend to build up and eliminate them.
Tips To Prevent Gum Disease
- Avoid sugar. Bacteria thrive on it. Bacteria produce plaque which in turn leads to gum disease
- Practice good oral hygiene habits:
- Brush at least twice a day, ideally after every meal
- Floss your teeth thoroughly and regularly, ideally after every meal
- Use an electric toothbrush as they are twice as effective at loosening plaque than conventional hand held brushes
- Quit smoking
- Eat foods rich in vitamin C every day. These include citrus, berries, broccoli, capsicum and kiwifruit. Vitamin C plays a vital role in maintaining collagen, the grist of gum tissue.
- Chewing crunchy food like raw apples, carrots, seeds and nuts can help in the prevention and treatment of gingivitis
- Visit your dentist for a check-up and thorough cleaning every 6 months to keep your teeth free of plaque