Sometimes when looking at your teeth in the mirror — while brushing or flossing — you notice that you have a swollen gum around one tooth. Although this might seem uncommon, it’s not that unusual and it could be attributed to a number of different causes.

There are various reasons that your gum could swell in one area, including poor hygiene, gum disease, or an abscess.

Poor hygiene

If you don’t brush and floss properly, you can leave behind food debris. This missed debris can cause decay and inflammation. Over time, this can develop into gum disease. Signs of poor dental hygiene may include:

Gum disease

When bacteria in the mouth infects the gum tissue surrounding the tooth, it can cause inflammation, which can lead to periodontal disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47.2 percent of U.S. adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease. Signs of gum disease may include:

Abscess

An abscessed tooth is often the result on an untreated cavity that has allowed bacteria to infect your tooth. Symptoms of an abscessed tooth may include:

  • pain
  • swollen gums
  • swollen jaw
  • fever

It’s important to see your dentist if you think you have an abscessed tooth. The infection won’t go away on its own. If left untreated, it can spread to your jawbone. It’s rare, but possible, that the infection can spread, leading to very serious health problems.

Our mouths contain bacteria. These bacteria combine with mucus and other components in our mouths to form plaque on our teeth. If plaque isn’t brushed and flossed away, it hardens into tartar.

Plaque and tartar buildup can then lead to gum disease. A common, mild gum disease, known as gingivitis, is characterized by red and swollen gums that bleed easily.

If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can transform into a more severe gum disease known as periodontitis, which is characterized by loose or sensitive teeth and painful chewing along with red, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums.

If you have periodontitis, your gums can pull away from your teeth giving easy access to bacteria that can cause infection. If not treated, this can start to break down the soft tissues and bone that hold your teeth in place.

Although most people, given the right factors, can get periodontal disease, there are certain factors that increase the risk, such as:

  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • AIDS
  • stress
  • heredity
  • crooked teeth
  • defective fillings
  • medications that can cause dry mouth

Saltwater rinse

A 2016 study indicated that a saltwater rinse can be effective in dealing with gum inflammation caused by gingivitis.

Two to three times a day, mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 8 ounces of warm water. Swish the mixture around your mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out.

Tea tree oil rinse

A 2014 study indicated that tea tree oil can reduce bleeding caused by gingivitis. Two to three times a day, mix three drops of tea tree essential oil and 8 ounces of warm water. Swish the mixture around your mouth for 30 seconds and then spit it out.

Turmeric gel

A 2015 study indicated that turmeric gel might prevent plaque and gingivitis. Two times a day — after brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth with fresh water — apply turmeric gel to your gums.

After letting it sit for 10 minutes, rinse off the gel by swishing fresh water around your mouth and then spitting it out.

Practicing proper dental hygiene is one of the most important things you can do to prevent problems such as gums swelling around teeth. Take these steps for strong dental hygiene:

  1. Remove bacteria by brushing after meals and before bedtime.
  2. Floss at least once each day.
  3. See a dentist twice a year for checkups and professional teeth cleaning.

If you notice a swollen gum around one tooth, it might be the result of gum disease, poor dental hygiene, or an abscess. Visit your dentist to make sure that your swollen gum is properly treated.

Spending a few minutes a day practicing good dental hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing can save you the discomfort, time, and expense of treating a health issue such as periodontal disease.