What Swollen Gums with Braces Means for Your Oral Health

Header Image

When receiving orthodontia for straighter teeth, you may find swollen gums with braces come with the territory. You might even worry the swelling is more pronounced than you expected, and wonder when you'll find relief from the discomfort. But rest assured irritation or soreness when you first get braces is normal.

Nonetheless, swollen gums – particularly after a long period of no pain – can be a sign of other problems. Take a look at what can cause swollen gums when wearing corrective appliances, and how to care for it.

Soreness Is Normal

It's normal to feel some pain in your mouth after receiving new braces or regular adjustments. Your teeth and jaw are hard at work creating a new smile: Bone dissolves and new bone is formed as your teeth are repositioned, and this can cause tension and pressure, according to Mayo Clinic. The discomfort is normal when you first get braces or have them tightened, and it can last two to three days. But swollen gums over time can point to problems unrelated to the initial wear.

Gingivitis from Hidden Plaque

Gingivitis is the result of plaque buildup on your teeth, and braces can make it more difficult to reach debris with brackets and wiring in place. Naturally, when food gets trapped in your gums, it can cause a buildup over time that results in gum inflammation. Although it's always important to your overall health that you remain diligent in your oral care regimen, it especially holds true if you have braces.

To cut down on this swelling, be sure to review proper brushing techniques with your orthodontist and invest in additional cleaning tools that help clean your mouth and teeth thoroughly despite your braces. Battery-powered products like Colgate® 360°® Total® Advanced Sonic Power Toothbrush, for example, remove more bacteria with 20,000 strokes per minute.

Hormones Can Swell the Gums

Most adults can rule out hormones as the cause of swollen gums. For pregnant women, however, hormonal surges can increase the chances of gingivitis. The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests hormonal shifts can cause "pregnancy gingivitis," or inflammation and tenderness in gums. So you likely won't have braces put on during this time. For this reason, those who are pregnant and already have braces should schedule an appointment with the orthodontist, especially if there are signs of gum swelling. Likewise, for girls undergoing puberty, hormones can be the culprit of swollen gums in these cases as well.

Regardless of the reason, it's always best to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist and review the best brushing techniques and oral care to help relieve the swelling. Discuss whether the cause is gingivitis resulting from pregnancy, hormones or plaque buildup, and how best to treat it.

Braces Can Irritate

Another cause of swollen gums with braces is what's known as "gingival enlargement," per the American Academy of Oral Medicine (AAOM). Also known as hypertrophy or hyperplasia, it occurs when there's either an overgrowth or increase in gum cells. In most cases, this is the result of a hereditary or medicinal condition, but it is possible for your gums to become irritated and react to your braces. Talk with your dentist or orthodontist about your medical history to better help determine what your treatment options should be.

How to Stay on Top of It

The best way to find relief is to identify swelling early and schedule an appointment with your orthodontist to discuss your home care approach. Doing the following can specifically help:

  • Take your time flossing daily and use special floss that helps clean around your braces.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace it within three months.
  • Brush for two minutes and look for clean, clear brackets.
  • Rinse with water or mouthwash after brushing.
  • Gargle with salt water for quick relief.


It's always important to make great oral hygiene a priority. But when you have braces, doing so can cut down on problems and irritation – making it a more comfortable experience.

Metal mouth? Help keep it clean for the future.

Making sure your teeth are clean is harder with braces. Try one of our products to make the process easier.