Swollen Gums: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention – Healthline

Dental Advices Provided to you by: Brite Medical Center
Swollen gums are often caused by gingivitis, along with other factors like nutrient deficiencies, hormone changes, or infections. Swollen gums, also called gingival swelling, are often irritated, sensitive, or painful.
Your gums are very important to your oral health. The gums are made of firm, pink tissue that covers your jawbone. This tissue is thick, fibrous, and full of blood vessels.
If your gums become swollen, they may protrude or bulge out. Swelling in your gums usually begins where the gum meets the tooth. Your gums may become so swollen, however, that they begin to hide parts of your teeth. Swollen gums appear red instead of their normal pink color.
Swollen gums, also called gingival swelling, are often irritated, sensitive, or painful. You may also notice that your gums bleed more easily when brushing or flossing your teeth.
Though swollen gums often occur due to gingivitis, many other factors can contribute, including pregnancy, malnutrition, or certain types of infections.
Gingivitis is the most common cause of swollen gums. It’s a gum disease that causes your gums to become irritated and swollen.
Many people don’t know they have gingivitis because the symptoms can be quite mild. However, if it’s left untreated, gingivitis can eventually lead to a much more serious condition called periodontitis and possible tooth loss.
Gingivitis is most often the result of poor oral hygiene, which allows plaque to build up on the gum line and teeth. Plaque is a film composed of bacteria and food particles deposited on the teeth over time. If plaque remains on the teeth for more than a few days, it becomes tartar.
Tartar is hardened plaque, which can’t be removed with flossing and brushing alone. This is when you need to see a dental professional, as tartar buildup can lead to gingivitis.
Swollen gums can also occur during pregnancy. The rush of hormones your body produces during pregnancy may increase the blood flow in your gums. This increase in blood flow can cause your gums to be more easily irritated, leading to swelling.
These hormonal changes can also hinder your body’s ability to fight off bacteria that typically cause gum infections. This can increase your chance of developing gingivitis.
Being deficient in vitamins, especially vitamins B and C, can cause gum swelling.
Vitamin C, for example, plays an important role in the maintenance and repair of your teeth and gums. If your vitamin C levels drop too low, you could develop scurvy. Scurvy can cause anemia and gum disease.
In developed nations, malnutrition is uncommon. When it’s present, it’s most often seen in older adults.
Infections caused by fungi and viruses can potentially cause swollen gums. If you have herpes, it could lead to a condition called acute herpetic gingivostomatitis, which causes swollen gums.
Thrush, which is the result of an overgrowth of naturally occurring yeast in the mouth, can also cause gum swelling. Untreated dental decay can lead to a dental abscess, which is localized gum swelling that requires treatment from a dentist.
If your gums are swollen for more than 2 weeks, you should talk with a dentist. The dentist will ask questions about when your symptoms began and how often they occur.
Full mouth dental X-rays may be needed to check for bone loss. They’ll also want to know if you’re pregnant or if you’ve had any recent changes in your diet. They may order blood tests to check for an infection.
Depending on the cause of your swollen gums, a dentist may prescribe oral rinses that help prevent gingivitis and reduce plaque. They may also recommend that you use a specific brand of toothpaste. In some cases, antibiotics may be necessary.
If you have an extreme case of gingivitis, you may need surgery. This is usually only recommended for those with later stages of gum disease, including moderate or advanced periodontitis.
One common treatment option is scaling and root planing. This is a procedure in which the dentist scrapes away diseased gums, dental plaque, and calculus, or tartar, on the roots of the teeth to allow the remaining gums to heal.
Treat swollen gums with care. Some tips for at-home care include:
There are some preventive measures you can take to avoid swollen gums, including maintaining proper oral care and eating healthy foods.
Brush and floss regularly, especially after meals. Visit a dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and be sure to discuss any other symptoms you may be experiencing. For example, if you have dry mouth, an issue often caused by certain health conditions or medications, it can increase your risk of plaque and tartar buildup.
You can also talk with a dentist about mouthwashes and toothpastes that may help with gum health.
Some research suggests that chronic stress could be linked to an increased risk of gum disease.
Not only that, but stress may also increase the severity of gum problems and reduce the effectiveness of treatments.
Keeping stress levels under control may help prevent swollen gums and improve oral health. Practicing yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises are a few simple and effective strategies to relieve stress.
Certain types of toothpaste contain ingredients that could help improve oral health by decreasing tooth sensitivity, soothing gum inflammation, reducing tartar build-up, or preventing enamel erosion.
The American Dental Association recommends selecting a toothpaste that contains fluoride and is free of sugar or other flavoring agents that can contribute to tooth decay.
Be sure to brush your teeth twice daily using toothpaste and floss regularly to help keep your gums healthy.
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Last medically reviewed on August 2, 2022
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Aug 2, 2022
Written By
Carmella Wint
Edited By
Rachael Ajmera, MS, RD
Medically Reviewed By
Christine Frank, DDS
Copy Edited By
Copy Editors
Mar 27, 2019
Written By
Carmella Wint
Edited By
Stella Miranda
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