How to Treat Swollen Gums that Aren't Bleeding

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.

Dental Appliances

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.

Try Benzocaine

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.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.