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Is gum disease contagious?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is caused by a buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can eventually harden into tartar that irritates gums. With mild gum disease, known as gingivitis, the gums become swollen, red, and bleed easily. In its more advanced stage called periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets that become infected. Severe gum disease can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Is Gum Disease Contagious?

Yes, gum disease is contagious. The bacteria that cause gum disease can spread from person to person in different ways:

  • Kissing – Saliva contains bacteria that can be passed through mouth-to-mouth contact.
  • Sharing utensils – Using someone else’s eating utensils or drinking from the same glass can transfer bacteria.
  • Toothbrushes – Sharing a toothbrush with someone who has gum disease can spread the infection.

While gum disease is contagious, some people may be more susceptible to developing the condition than others due to factors like genetics, smoking, stress, poor nutrition, and certain medications.

Is Gum Disease Genetic?

Research shows there is a genetic component to gum disease. Some people are simply more prone to developing gum infections due to hereditary factors. Certain gene mutations can make individuals more susceptible by affecting the immune system and inflammatory response.

Studies on twins have found that genetics accounts for 25-50% of the risk for chronic periodontitis, the severe form of gum disease. If one identical twin has advanced gum disease, there is a good chance the other will too. The risk decreases between non-identical twins who do not share the exact genetic makeup.

While genetics play a role, lifestyle and oral hygiene habits also greatly impact gum health. Good dental care can help reduce the effects of genetic predisposition.

Can Gum Disease Spread Through Saliva?

Yes, gum disease can be spread through saliva. Saliva contains hundreds of different types of oral bacteria, including the harmful bacteria that cause plaque accumulation and gum infection if not removed by daily brushing and flossing.

Kissing, sharing drinks or utensils, or any other direct contact of saliva with someone who has gum disease can transfer the bacteria. New bacteria introduced to the mouth can join with existing bacteria and increase inflammation, deepening gum pockets and enabling the infection to spread.

Tips to Prevent Spread Through Saliva

  • Avoid sharing utensils or drinking glasses with others
  • Use protection for intimate kissing with someone who has gum disease
  • Disinfect toothbrushes regularly

Can You Catch Gum Disease From Floss?

It is possible, though uncommon, to contract gum disease from using someone else’s floss. Sharing floss can transfer bacteria, especially if the floss has touched bleeding gums or gum pockets where bacteria thrive.

The risk of contracting gum disease from floss depends on:

  • Amount of bacteria – Higher if floss was used on infected gums
  • Floss type – Higher with porous, absorbent floss than smooth, waxed floss
  • Flossed surfaces – Higher if between teeth rather than just at gumline
  • Frequency of sharing – Higher with regular sharing vs one-time use

While it’s ideal to avoid sharing floss, the overall risk is low. Practicing good oral hygiene and flossing technique can help reduce potential transmission.

Tips to Prevent Spread From Floss

  • Use your own floss instead of sharing
  • Opt for waxed floss over porous floss
  • Discard used floss properly
  • Floss before brushing

Can You Get Gum Disease From Kissing?

Yes, it’s possible to contract gum disease from kissing someone who has the bacterial infection in their mouth. While not extremely common, here are some factors that can increase the risk:

  • Deep, intimate kissing where saliva is exchanged
  • Longer kissing duration
  • Frequent kissing over time
  • Existing gum disease or gingivitis
  • Weak immune system
  • Poor oral hygiene

Protective steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of transmission while kissing:

  • Limit contact if partner has advanced gum disease
  • Ask partner to brush and floss before intimate kissing
  • Pay attention to your own oral health
  • Use mouthwash before intimate contact

Can You Spread Gum Disease Through a Toothbrush?

Sharing a toothbrush with someone who has gum disease comes with a high risk of spreading the bacterial infection. Toothbrushes can harbor oral bacteria, especially if not rinsed thoroughly after each use.

Here are some toothbrush risk factors that can increase chances of contracting gum disease:

Toothbrush Factors Level of Risk
Porosity High – bacteria cling to porous bristles
Wear High – worn bristles trap more germs
Manual vs. Electric Moderate – electric tend to harbor less bacteria
Infrequent replacement High – old brushes harbor more bacteria
Time sharing High – long-term sharing increases risk
Rinsing between uses Low – reduces bacterial load

Sharing toothbrushes should be avoided, especially with someone who has gum disease or gingivitis. Using a new toothbrush is recommended if bacterial transmission is suspected.

Can Gum Disease Spread Through Dental Tools?

Yes, it’s possible to get gum disease from dental tools if proper disinfection is not performed between patients. Dental tools such as picks, scalers, and drills can retain bacteria after treating an infected mouth.

However, the risk is low at dental offices that adhere to high disinfection standards. The CDC provides stringent guidelines for sterilizing dental equipment that, when followed, make transmission unlikely.

Here are some dental tool risk factors to consider:

  • Ultrasonic scalers – Moderate risk of spreading infection if not properly disinfected
  • Sharp curettes – Lower risk but still require disinfection
  • Dental picks – Moderate risk as bacteria can collect under point
  • Saliva ejectors – Moderate risk from sucking pooled saliva

Patients should confirm their dentist properly sterilizes tools after each use. Visually inspecting tools can also help reduce risk.

Does Gum Disease Spread Through Coughing or Sneezing?

Gum disease does not spread through the air from coughing or sneezing. The bacteria that cause gum infections are anaerobic, meaning they thrive in environments with low oxygen levels. Exposing the bacteria directly to air can help kill them.

Cough and sneeze droplets contain various bacteria and viruses that can cause other infectious diseases like pneumonia, influenza, and the common cold. But these are different from the specific anaerobic bacteria that contribute to gum disease.

While coughing and sneezing does not directly spread gum infections, having respiratory illnesses like cold and flu can temporarily increase vulnerability to oral bacteria and worsen gum inflammation.

Is Periodontal Disease Contagious?

Periodontal disease, also called periodontitis, is a serious gum infection affecting the tissues and bone supporting the teeth. As the most advanced stage of gum disease, periodontitis involves severe inflammation and can lead to tooth loss.

Yes, periodontal disease is contagious and can spread through saliva, shared utensils, kissing, and other ways oral bacteria are transmitted from person to person. The bacteria most associated with advanced periodontitis are Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans.

People with periodontitis are even more contagious as their gum pockets contain higher concentrations of harmful bacteria. Good oral hygiene and prevention helps reduce transmission to others.

Symptoms of Contagious Periodontitis

  • Swollen, red gums
  • Gums bleeding when brushing
  • Bad breath or foul taste
  • Gum recession, exposing tooth roots
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Pus discharge between teeth and gums

Can You Get Gum Disease Again After Treatment?

Yes, it’s possible to develop gum disease again after receiving treatment. Successfully treated gum disease takes consistent oral hygiene to keep from returning. The bacteria that cause gum infection can still exist in the mouth even after deep cleanings.

Without daily plaque removal by brushing and flossing, bacteria can rebuild and reinfect gum tissues. Other risk factors make recurring infections more likely:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Poor nutrition
  • Grinding teeth
  • Stress
  • Certain medications
  • Hormonal changes

Periodic dental cleanings, plaque removal, and addressing risk factors can help prevent repeat gum disease after initial treatment.

What Helps Prevent Spread of Gum Disease?

Daily oral hygiene is key to preventing gum disease transmission. Here are some tips:

  • Brush twice daily – Thoroughly brush teeth, gums, tongue and roof of mouth each morning and night.
  • Floss once daily – Gently floss between teeth and under the gumline to remove plaque.
  • See the dentist – Get professional cleanings every 6 months to prevent plaque buildup.
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash – Rinsing with antiseptics helps kill bacteria.
  • Don’t share personal items – Avoid sharing toothbrushes, utensils, cups, lip balm, etc.
  • Stop tobacco use – Smoking increases the risk of developing gum disease.


Gum disease results from a bacterial infection that spreads through plaque buildup on teeth. The condition is contagious and can pass from person to person through direct transfer of oral bacteria via saliva, shared items, or kissing. Practicing consistent oral hygiene habits, getting regular dental cleanings, and avoiding shared use of personal items can help reduce the spread of gum disease.