Your gums are very important to your oral health. The gums
are made of firm, pink tissue that covers your jawbones. 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.
What causes swollen gums?
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
harder than plaque. You usually can’t remove it with flossing and brushing
alone. This is when you need to see a dental professional. 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
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.
What are the treatment options for swollen gums?
If your gums are swollen for more than two weeks, you should
talk to your dentist. Your dentist will ask questions about when your symptoms
began and how often they occur. Full mouth dental X-rays may be needed. 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, your dentist
may prescribe oral rinses that help prevent gingivitis and reduce plaque. Your
dentist 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.
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. Soothe your gums by brushing
and flossing gently, so you don’t irritate your gums. Rinse your mouth with a
saltwater solution to rid your mouth of bacteria and drink lots of water. Water
will also help stimulate the production of saliva, which kills disease-causing
bacteria in the mouth.
Avoid irritants, including strong mouthwashes, alcohol, and
Place a warm compress over your face to lessen gum pain. A
cold compress can help decrease swelling.
How can I prevent swollen gums?
There are some preventive measures you can take to avoid
this condition, including maintaining proper oral care and eating healthy
Brush and floss regularly, especially after meals. Visit
your dentist at least once every six months for a cleaning. If you have dry
mouth, which can increase the risk of plaque and tartar buildup, talk to your
doctor about mouthwashes and toothpaste that may help with this condition.
Getting enough calcium, vitamin C, and folic acid can help
ensure that you don’t develop swollen gums. People who don’t get enough calcium
on a daily basis are more likely to develop gum diseases. Vitamin C and folic
acid are important for preventing gingivitis and maintaining healthy gums.