If you find that you frequently have swollen and irritated gums, you're not alone. Swollen gums are a common problem for many people with many different causes. In most cases, gum swelling is nothing to be worried about and can be treated easily. The best way to get yourself on the road to recovery is to learn the signs and causes of gum irritation, and then focus on treatment and prevention for a healthy and confident smile.
Swollen gums are red and tender gums that will sometimes bleed when you brush, floss, or eat crunchy or hard food. Other symptoms include mouth sores, persistent bad breath, and gum tissue that is recessed or not adherent to the tooth. If your condition has become worse or persisted over an extended period, it might be time to see your dentist, because it could be a sign of a larger issue.
The American Academy of Periodontology says that the leading cause of inflammation of the gums is plaque. However, other factors, such as stress, poor nutrition, obesity, tobacco use and being 65 years old or older, can contribute to this issue or increase your risk. Here are a few other common causes that could be contributing to your gum inflammation.
- Gingivitis: The primary cause of swollen gums is gingivitis. If you haven’t been brushing well or flossing regularly, this might be the issue.
- Medications: Swollen gums might be a side effect of a new medication you have been taking. Talk to your doctor about your side effects. There may be an alternative available.
- Brand Switch: Switching to a new toothpaste or mouthwash brand could trigger a reaction to one of the new ingredients. Be on the lookout for signs of a reaction when you make the switch.
- Poor Nutrition: If you’ve been skipping out on your fruits and veggies, your diet might be the reason you have swollen gums. In particular, a vitamin C deficiency can cause inflamed gums if you're not getting your recommended daily dose.
- Pregnancy: According to the American Pregnancy Association, swollen, inflamed and sensitive gums are common during pregnancy. During pregnancy, hormonal changes affect how your body reacts to bacteria, making it easy for plaque to build up and leave gums vulnerable to sensitivity.
- Dental Appliances: Fitted dental appliances, such as braces, retainers and dentures, are often associated with swollen or sore gums. Your gums will usually adapt to the appliance over time, but if it continues to cause discomfort, talk to your dentist about getting it adjusted or refitted.
Find Relief: Do’s and Don’ts for Treating Swollen Gums
There are several things you can do to treat swollen gums, as well as several things you should avoid. Check out these do’s and don’ts of treating inflamed gums before jumping into action.
- Brush and floss regularly. If your swollen gums are because of gingivitis, the best step toward recovery is maintaining good oral hygiene.
- Improve your diet. Up your fruit and vegetable intake, and avoid sodas and caffeinated drinks for a while.
- Rinse your mouth with saltwater. Salt helps reduce swollen gums and ease the pain that comes with them.
- Take anti-inflammatory medication. Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce the swelling in your gums and ease the pain and tenderness.
- Eat cold foods. If your gum sensitivity hasn’t spread to your teeth, eating soft, cold foods can help reduce the swelling of your gums and numb some of the pain.
- Try benzocaine. If your swollen gums are making it hard to eat, drink, or talk, try using a benzocaine product. It is usually applied topically or comes in a mouthwash. Benzocaine will temporarily relieve pain and numb the inflammation.
- See your dentist. If your gum irritation persists, make an appointment with your dentist. He/she can help determine the cause of the swelling and recommend treatment options.
- Avoid irritants. Don’t continue to use a toothpaste or mouthwash that irritates your mouth. If you find that you’re allergic or sensitive to your toothpaste, discontinue use and go back to a familiar toothpaste that didn't cause any issues. Mouthwashes with alcohol can also contribute to irritation, so stay away from these if you are experiencing swollen gums.
- Don’t use alcohol and tobacco. Both of these substances irritate your gums and can make swelling worse.
- Don’t ignore the problem. If swelling persists, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your dentist to make sure that the irritation isn’t a symptom of a more serious issue.
The best way to prevent gum swelling and stop the buildup of plaque early is brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day and flossing once a day. Even with excellent oral care, plaque can harden and become tartar, which is removed during a professional cleaning. Keep up with visits to your dentist every six months for cleanings and checkups to stay ahead of any potential issues.
Swollen gums can be painful and annoying, but in most cases, they can be easily treated. Once you’ve found the underlying cause, you can begin to treat it on your own at home and talk to your dentist for a professional opinion. You’ll be on your way to a healthy smile in no time!