An abscess that develops on the gums is often referred to as a gum boil. They appear as swollen bumps on the gum.

The main cause of a gum boil is bacteria — often from plaque, food particles, or tooth decay — that leads to infection beneath the surface of the gum. Rarely, a gum boil is a symptom of oral cancer.

Based on where the gum boil is located, it’s categorized as one of three types:

  • in the gum line: gingival abscess
  • at the root of the tooth: periapical abscess
  • in the supporting tissues of the teeth: periodontal abscess

Although some gum boils aren’t painful, most are. Pain is typically the first indication that you have a boil on your gums.

After experiencing pain, you might probe the area with your tongue or look in your mouth using a mirror and find a bump on your gum.

Other symptoms of gum boils can include:

In many cases, a gum boil is the result of poor dental hygiene. Maintenance of good oral health is the best way to avoid gum boils.

If you already have one, your doctor may recommend taking antibiotics to resolve the infection. This is often prescribed in conjunction with:

  • a deep cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist if the cause is unhealthy gums
  • a root canal by a dentist or an endodontist if the cause is tooth decay
  • an adjustment to dentures by a dentist if the cause is poorly fitting dentures

Practitioners of natural healing recommend home remedies such as:

A gum boil is an abscess resulting from a bacterial infection. If any abscess — oral or otherwise — isn’t treated, the infection can spread through the bones or the bloodstream to other body parts, which can be life-threatening.

Prevention through a regimen of good oral hygiene practices is the best guard against gum boils. If you find yourself with what you believe to be a gum boil, visit a dentist as soon as possible.

Not only can your dentist identify — or rule out — your gum boil as a potential symptom of oral cancer (if this is the rare cause), but they can also recommend treatment that will deal with any infection, hopefully before it spreads.