This dental myth is not as common as some of the other ones I have seen, such as the novocaine myth, the epinephrine allergy tale, and many others. However, it is still something that I encounter on a fairly regular basis.
This myth is the belief that gum disease can somehow be caught by kissing someone who already has the disease.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, more formally known as periodontal disease, are a series of conditions that affect the gum and bone tissue holding in the teeth. While there are some uncommon variations, the most common types are gingivitis and periodontitis.
Without proper treatment, over time, the disease can destroy the tissue holding in the teeth. And as a result, the teeth can ultimately loosen up and/or become infected, resulting in the loss of those teeth. Note that this is a completely different disease than cavities (also known as dental decay or caries).
Causes of Gum Disease
A photo is worth a thousand words, so let’s take a look:
The above photo shows the #1 cause of gum disease: poor oral hygiene leading to a buildup of plaque and calculus on the teeth above and below the gums.
This patient is one I saw in my office in Orange, CT. His gums tissue was red and inflamed and would bleed whenever they were touched.
Besides oral hygiene, there are other factors that can contribute to gum disease:
- Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, leukemia, and many others
- Some medications that cause dry mouth
- Certain genetic traits
- And many other factors
What’s Love Got to do with it?
Nothing! Gum disease is not caused by kissing someone. While it is true that kissing can spread oral bacteria from one person to another, this act does not cause a person to develop gum disease.
Did the plaque at the gum line on the photo to the left come from the person this patient just kissed? No!
While it may be tempting to blame your ex for the conditions of your gums, this is one thing you can’t pin on him/her!
Until the next Dental MythBuster…