Monday, July 14, 2014

Is Periodontal disease/gum disease contagious?

Q: is periodontal/gum disease contagious?

A: Research has shown that periodontal/gum disease is caused by the inflammatory reaction to bacteria under the gums, so periodontal disease technically may not be contagious. However, the bacteria that cause the inflammatory reaction can be spread through saliva. This means that if one of your family members has periodontal disease, it’s a good idea to avoid contact with their saliva by not sharing eating utensils or oral health equipment. If you notice that your spouse or a family member has the warning signs of a possible periodontal problem (bleeding, red and swollen gums, or bad breath) you may want to suggest that they see a dentist or periodontist for an exam. It may help to protect the oral health of everyone in the family.
Periodontal disease is a multi-faceted disease. The initiating factors are primarily oral bacteria, and these bacteria can be spread from person to person. So, in that respect, periodontal disease is technically ‘infectious’ because it takes direct contact (person-to-person, intimate kissing) or vector contact (sharing a toothbrush for example) to spread the bacteria. Being in close proximity, such as working in the same room with someone with periodontal disease is not enough to contract the disease.
The leading risk factors that determine whether someone will develop the disease are as follows:
1. Are you a smoker? Over 50% of people with advanced perio disease are either current or former smokers. Smoking, among other things, inhibits the body’s defenses from fighting the disease.
2. Underlying chronic systemic disease, such as diabetes. Conditions like diabetes interfere with the body’s natural defenses and healing.
3. Family history. It has been shown there is a genetic predisposition to developing periodontal disease. As much as 30% of the adult population may be genetically predisposed to periodontal disease.
4. Oral hygiene. Inadequate oral hygiene practices (not enough brushing, flossing, etc.) allow the oral bacteria to thrive.
5. Irregular or non-existent professional care. Over time, personal oral hygiene is simply not enough to ward off periodontal disease for most people. Routine preventive and periodontal therapy by a qualified dental professional can go a long way in helping avoid the consequences of periodontal disease. They can also recommend strategies specific to your particular situation.
6. Age. The older a person is, the greater risk for developing perio disease.
7. Medications. Certain medications can interfere with the body’s natural defenses against periodontal disease. Examples would be drugs that cause xerostomia (dry mouth) or drugs that cause hypertrophic tissue growth, such as Dilantin or other anti-seizure medications. Discuss your particular situation with your healthcare provider before stopping or changing any medical therapy.
Some risk factors are controllable (smoking, oral hygiene, professional care) and others are not (genetics, age). Work with your dental professional to control those factors you can, and forget about those you cannot.
Periodontal disease is a chronic, inflammatory, progressive, degenerative condition that has been shown to be the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. While it is not curable, it can, in most cases, be controlled with adequate personal oral hygiene and appropriate professional care.
Don’t worry; you cannot contract periodontal disease simply from being with someone who has the disease.  But One Exception you kiss someone who has advanced periodontal disease, there could be a transfer of microorganisms that cause the disease.