Is Gingivitis Contagious?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Gum Disease Treatment

The goals of treatment for gingivitis are to identify and eliminate the factors that are making the person more susceptible to gum disease. Most factors can be eliminated by establishing more consistent and thorough oral hygiene habits and professional dental cleanings. If there are certain risk factors such as smoking or uncontrolled diabetes that are contributing to the gum disease, they need to be addressed or eliminated to have success in reversing gingivitis.

What is gingivitis (gum disease or periodontal disease)?

Gingivitis (gum disease or periodontal disease) is inflammation of the gingiva (structures in the mouth including the gums, mucous membranes, and fibrous tissue that covers the tooth-containing edge of the jaw). Gingivitis is commonly termed gum disease and medically termed periodontal disease. Gingivitis is considered to be the early stage of periodontal disease by some investigators. The majority of individuals with gingivitis have bacteria under the gingival area, and these bacteria cause inflammation. Some bacteria that play a role in gingivitis also play a role in causing cavities.

Is gingivitis contagious?

The answer is controversial and depends on what experts you ask. For example, many factors that lead to the disease are due to actions taken by the individual (examples include poor dental hygiene, no flossing of teeth, stress, hard to clean crooked teeth, smoking, medications like steroids and some antiseizure medications, and a poor diet containing heavy amounts of sugar and carbohydrates). However, researchers have shown that gingivitis-causing bacteria (including Streptococcus mutans, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Porphyromonas gingivalis) can be passed from parents to children and exchanged between men and women living together by sharing silverware, utensils, saliva, drinking cups, and other items. Theoretically, it may be transmitted or spread by kissing.

Currently, the American Dental Association considers gingivitis to be contagious. However, other factors such as those described above usually need to be present for an individual to develop gingivitis.

If one sides with those who consider gingivitis is mainly due to actions taken by an individual, then one sides with those who think gingivitis is not contagious. However, if one agree with the reasons established by the American Dental Association, then one sides with those who think gingivitis is contagious. There is a middle ground for some who think gingivitis occurs when certain factors are present in an individual (such as when the gingivitis-causing bacteria are present in an individual with poor dental hygiene, etc.).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/2/2016

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