The gums are the soft tissue that encases your teeth, roots, and jawbone, and they play a vital role in your oral health. They also act as a protective layer against disease-causing bacteria and help keep your teeth in place. However, if you start to notice your gums looking red and bulging out, they may have become swollen. So what causes swollen gums, and how can you treat them?
What Causes Swollen Gums?
Gums can become swollen for a variety of reasons, not all of which require an immediate trip to the dentist’s office. However, while not an emergency, swollen gums signal that something is wrong and you will need professional care. Swelling can occur overnight because of a foreign body getting stuck below the gums, causing an infection similar to a splinter in your finger. It could also be the first sign of gum disease.
Gingivitis is a common gum irritation caused by inadequate oral hygiene. An early stage of gum disease, gingivitis is characterized by gum swelling, redness, or bleeding during brushing or flossing. This inflammation is your body’s way of fighting harmful bacteria in the plaque that builds up on your teeth when you don’t clean them effectively.
Nutritional deficiency, particularly in vitamin C, can cause swollen gums. The connective tissues in your gums require vitamin C for growth and repair. Without it, they can become vulnerable to gum infection. Make sure to incorporate plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet to avoid this problem.
A more serious gum infection can develop when a foreign object gets stuck in your gums or bacteria related to gum disease becomes sealed off beneath the gum line. This can create a pus-filled abscess under your gums. If you have a gum abscess, your dentist or periodontist will need to drain it and prescribe you antibiotics. Depending on what caused the abscess — e.g., gum disease or an infection in the tooth’s pulp tissue — periodontal treatment or a root canal may also be needed.
Pregnancy hormones may aggravate your gums because they can cause a change in the chemistry below the gums, allowing more powerful bacteria to flourish. You must practice proper oral hygiene and schedule regular professional teeth cleanings to control this bacteria. If not, this mild gum disease could progress to periodontitis and bone loss.
Gum swelling can also indicate deep decay within a tooth, which has spread into the gum via the tooth’s root. Untreated decay can spread deeper into the tooth until it reaches the soft central tissue called the pulp. If the pulp is infected or dead, you may need a root canal to save the tooth. If your dentist can’t save the tooth, they will have to extract it.
Treating Swollen Gums
If you regularly visit a dentist, you can try some home remedies to see if your gums feel better. However, you should seek professional treatment if the swelling doesn’t subside with home care.
Here are a few home care tips to help treat your swollen gums:
- Gently brush and floss your teeth to avoid irritating the gums while cleaning the area.
- Rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution to help remove bacteria from your mouth.
- Avoid strong mouthwashes, alcohol, and tobacco, all of which irritate swollen gums.
- Drink lots of water to stimulate saliva production and weaken bacteria.
- Apply warm compresses to reduce inflammation and cold compresses to reduce swelling.
If you’re unsure of what’s causing your gums to swell or are unable to get the situation under control in a reasonable amount of time, contact your dentist. They may suggest medical treatments such as:
- Oral rinses that help prevent gingivitis and reduce plaque.
- Scaling and root planing — a procedure which involves scraping away diseased gums, plaque, and tartar on the roots of the gums.
- Gum surgery for severe cases.
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Final Thoughts on Swollen Gums
If your gums are bothering you, it’s important to improve your oral hygiene routine and schedule regular dental appointments to maintain your gums’ health. But before you schedule an appointment, consider looking into a dental savings plan, which can provide plan members with savings of 10-60% on most procedures. While traditional dental insurance has deductibles, annual caps, waiting periods, and restrictions around pre-existing conditions, dental savings plans do not.
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