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Is gum disease contagious?

Yes, according to an article in the September 1997 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, periodontal disease can be passed from parents to children and between couples. Research indicates that periodontal (gum) disease-causing bacteria can be passed through saliva. When couples or family members come in contact with saliva, they risk contracting periodontal disease from an infected individual.

What is the definition of periodontics?

Periodontics (or periodontology) is the branch of dentistry concerned with diseases of the supporting and surrounding structures of the teeth including the gums, cementum, periodontal membranes and alveolar bone. Periodontal disease is the chronic, bacterial infection of the gums which surround teeth. Untreated, advanced gum disease may result in jaw bone loss and tooth loss.

What are some common symptoms of gum disease?

Some common gum disease symptoms include tender, red or swollen gums; receding gum-lines; pus between teeth and gums; bad breath; sensitive teeth; bleeding; loose teeth; and change in jaw alignment. If you display any of these signs of gum disease (periodontal disease), visit your dentist or periodontist immediately before advanced gum disease sets in.

Are there links between gum disease and heart disease?

Recent studies suggest there are links between gum disease and heart problems. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, individuals with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to have coronary artery disease (heart disease). One study found that incidents of gum disease (and the mild form, gingivitis), cavities, and missing teeth were as good of heard disease predictors as high cholesterol levels. Moreover, a recent study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who had higher blood levels of certain disease-causing bacteria in the mouth were more prone to atherosclerosis in the carotid artery in the neck.

Are there any segments of the population that are more prone to periodontitis or advanced gum disease?

Certain individuals who suffer from systemic diseases such as diabetes may be more susceptible to gum disease and vice versa. Women who are pregnant, menstruating or undergoing menopause are also susceptible to sensitive gums and therefore periodontal disease due to changes in hormone levels. Older adults and children are other population groups that are prone to develop some form of gum disease, from localized juvenile periodontitis to chronic periodontitis.