Tips to treat sore gums include increasing levels of oral hygiene (brushing twice per day and introducing a regular flossing regime), eating cold foods to reduce swelling (e.g. frozen fruit, ice cubes), and seeking treatment from the dentist that could involve anti-inflammatory medication. The dentist will also address any root causes (e.g. gingivitis).
How to treat sore gums
Swollen or sore gums may protrude outwards at the base of the tooth – this increase in the gum’s surface area can mean an increased likelihood of irritation when eating and an increased sensation of swelling and throbbing. Patients may also notice that the gums become more susceptible to bleeding (either when eating or when brushing).
Tips to treat sore gums:
Rinse the mouth with salt water to alleviate symptoms of sore gums
Sore gums can be caused by a build-up of acid brought on by the presence of harmful bacteria in the mouth. In limited cases, such as where a sore gum is related to a partially erupted wisdom tooth, for example, a salt water mouth rinse is helpful in keeping the area clean, which is beneficial in the overall healing process.
Brush twice per day and introduce a regular flossing regime
Brushing twice per day and introducing a regular flossing regime can help to remove any harmful bacteria that may be causing sore gums. Brushing with a soft brush at a 45-degree angle can help to remove bacteria from between the teeth while reducing irritation to the gums. Specially formulated mouthwash for sore gums will also help to reduce symptoms.
Use anti-inflammatory and pain medication as directed
This is only relevant to sore gums in relation to wisdom teeth. In all other cases of sore gums (i.e. not related to wisdom teeth), gum disease is mostly painless. Therefore, patients who experience sore gums are encouraged to book a dental appointment as soon as possible in order to establish the cause of the pain.
Patients should be aware that gum pain could be linked to factors such as sinusitis (requiring a prescription for antibiotics), an abscess (potentially requiring root canal treatment), or an advanced stage of gum disease that has spread to the bone (periodontitis). These conditions are unlikely to go away without professional medical treatment from the dentist.
Causes of sore gums
Causes of sore gums may be loosely grouped into three categories (some complex issues may be linked to multiple causes across different categories). The first two types of longer-term issues may be thought of as oral hygiene related or non-oral hygiene related. Other causes of sore gums are related to shorter term ‘transitory’ issues (i.e. due to injury).
Oral hygiene related causes of sore gums
Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease caused by a build-up of a sticky residue on the teeth called plaque. Where not removed through regular brushing, plaque can proliferate – the danger is that plaque harbours harmful bacteria that can damage enamel, cause bad breath, and can in some cases result in a painful infection in the gums that will need treatment from a dentist.
Where gingivitis is not treated, periodontitis can set in. This is a deeper issue that can cause bone deterioration, abscesses, and a detachment of the gum from the tooth. Collectively, these symptoms will likely result in eventual tooth loss.
Tooth decay occurs where sugars caught in the plaque on the tooth surface are turned into acid. This results in two notable outcomes. The first outcome is a hole in the tooth (dental caries). The second is a proliferation of bacteria, causing an infection in the surrounding soft tissue. This is experienced by the patient as sore gums.
Non oral hygiene related causes of sore gums
Sore gums due to ‘pregnancy gingivitis’
Pregnancy is linked to swollen or sore gums (known as pregnancy gingivitis). The condition is caused by hormonal changes in the mother that result in increased blood flow. This increased blood flow can affect ‘thin’ soft tissues such as the interior of the mouth, rendering the gums sensitive and therefore susceptible to pain.
Stress related sore gums
Stress is an often overlooked factor that can cause sore gums. When stressed, the body produces cortisol (a multi-functional hormone that increases blood sugar levels, giving a boost to the muscles and brain). Cortisol can cause tissue inflammation, which often manifests as swollen or sore gums that are susceptible to irritation and bleeding.
Transitory (temporary) causes of sore gums
- Harsh brushing that scratches and irritates the gums
- Minor infection resulting from temporary poor oral hygiene
- Heavy-handed flossing that compresses the gum against the teeth or jaw
Temporary issues that will resolve with time could also include ill-fitting dental appliances. Patients experiencing any discomfort in the gums that is attributed to an ill-fitting dental appliance (e.g. such as traditional metal braces, clear plastic aligners (e.g. Invisalign), or a retainer) should speak to the dentist for assistance in resolving the issue.
Symptoms of sore gums
Patients may experience sore gums in a number of different ways. What is important to remember is that any discomfort in the gums that does not have an immediate and obvious cause could be the result of a potentially more serious underlying issue such as a dental abscess – always visit the dentist in the event of persistent sore gums.
Symptoms of sore gums include:
- Discolouration of the gums – e.g. redness
- Localised bleeding when brushing/flossing
- A ‘pimple’ appears on the gum near the site of the pain
- Localised swelling that may spread into the jaw, cheeks, throat, and face
- Throbbing in the affected area of gum (noticeable when lying down to sleep at night)