Gingivitis is the usual suspect for red, swollen gums, but don't be too quick to point the finger. In some cases it may not be gum disease, but related sensitivities that give way to painful gums without the bleeding that follows. The first step to finding relief is to pinpoint the reason for your swelling. Whether it's the result of gingivitis or a similar issue, knowing how to treat swollen gums means understanding what could be affecting you in the first place. Consider the following five causes of sore gums, and how to treat this pain so you can find lasting relief:
Gingivitis – an infection of the tissue surrounding your teeth – leads to swollen gums more often than not, but it can cause bleeding as well. Just because your gums may not be bleeding, though, doesn't mean you should rule out gum disease altogether; the American Dental Association (ADA) estimates that 47.2 percent of American adults suffer from gingivitis. Some other symptoms of gingivitis include gums pulling away from the teeth, persistent bad breath and even loose teeth. If you suspect gingivitis is causing your red, sore gums, be sure to visit your dentist.
The American Pregnancy Association warns that some pregnant women may experience red, swollen gums during gestation. Pregnancy hormones alter the way your body reacts to bacteria, making this the perfect time for plaque to build up and gums to become sensitive. Women in their second trimester are especially prone to these dental issues, so it's important to maintain regular dental checkups – reminding your dentist each time that you're pregnant, of course.
Malnutrition and Illness
Certain medical conditions can result in sore gums, too. Illnesses that attack the immune system, as well as malnutrition and even chronic stress, can be quite damaging to gum health. The Immune Deficiency Foundation suggests when autoimmune disorders affect the white blood cells – also know as autoimmune neutropenia – it can result in tender gums without much bleeding. A low vitamin C intake (female and male adults should have between 75 to 90 mg of vitamin C a day, respectively, according to the National Institutes of Health) can also cause this type of inflammation.
Recent fittings for braces, a retainer, dentures or another dental appliance are classic reasons for sore or swollen gums. Your mouth is an inherently sensitive area of the body, and it doesn't always respond to foreign objects favorably. In some cases, this swelling will go down as you become more used to the appliance, but if it continues to bother you, it may be a sizing issue to discuss with your dentist or orthodontist.
Some medications – including dilantin, phenobarbital or calcium channel blockers – list swollen, sore gums as a side-effect. Consider whether or not you've started a new medication; it could be the reason for swelling and pain without bleeding.
Keep in mind irritated gums don't need constant attention, especially when treated at the source. No matter which of these five causes applies to you, here are some tips as you learn how to treat swollen gums so you can start the healing process:
Treat the Source
Some causes of gum pain, like medications and illness, will need to be treated with more comprehensive medical care. See your dentist for your regular checkup and he or she can refer you to this health care professional. Or, if you just started taking a new medication and notice gum pain creep in, talk to your doctor about alternatives, or even altering your dosage. When gum disease is the culprit, talk to your dentist about the home-care practices that can bring back healthy, pain-free gums – like brushing correctly and flossing every day.
Take Anti-Inflammatory Medication
Because inflammation can aggravate the nerves in your jaw, much of the pain associated with sore gums is actually due to the swelling itself. Taking an anti-inflammatory medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help you find relief in the interim so you don't incur further damage before seeing your doctor or dentist.
Eat Cold Foods
Provided the sensitivity hasn't spread to your teeth, cold foods can help reduce swelling and numb the pain of swollen gums. Therefore, try noshing on a freezer pop or eating a few frozen grapes to help calm the pain and swelling naturally.
A product that contains benzocaine, such as Colgate® Orabase® 20% Benzocaine, can be applied topically to provide numbing relief from sore gums. Although it's only a temporary solution, it can help soothe painful gums so you have the time and focus to treat one of the five true causes of the swelling.
Swollen gums can definitely be a pain, but you shouldn't have to keep altering your home care to address the problem. Once you've found the issue, you can work to solve it while finding ways to help cope with the pain until you're better.