Everyone knows you're supposed to take care of your teeth. But your gums, too? Who worries if their gums are swollen or a little red? Turns out you should! Swollen gums are a lot more than an uncomfortable annoyance; they could signal something more serious like gum disease.
Swollen gums are abnormally enlarged, bulging or protruding and may sometimes also be bleeding. Red swollen gums are common and may involve one or more of the triangular-shaped bits of gum between nearby teeth. Less commonly, the gums swell so much that they completely block the neighboring tooth.
What Causes Red Swollen Gums?
Swollen sore gums are often a sign of gum disease. Most people have the mildest form, gingivitis, which is caused by the buildup of dental plaque. This sticky material is made up of bacteria, mucus and food debris [yum!]. Red swollen gums aren't the only sign of gingivitis. Swollen gums that are accompanied by bleeding when you brush or floss, tenderness, bad breath or sensitive teeth are a reason to see a dentist right away.
Why bother? Because left untreated, dental plaque turns into a hard deposit called dental tartar. If this is ignored, the disease can develop further, and may eventually lead to tooth loss.
Swollen bleeding gums aren't just caused by gum disease. Other culprits that can create swollen sore gums include:
- A viral or fungal infection
- Poor nutrition
- Sensitivity to toothpaste or toothbrush
- Ill-fitting dentures
- Hormonal changes due to pregnancy
- Side effects of certain medications
- Medical problems such as scurvy
How Are Swollen Gums Treated?
The best dental treatment for swollen sore gums is removal of plaque and tartar buildup. Regular dental cleanings and other procedures such as scaling and root planing can stop gingivitis in its tracks and actually reverse the effects of gum disease. If you suffer from a more advanced form of periodontal disease, your dentist may recommend ongoing swollen bleeding gums treatment.
Your dentist may also recommend some self-care tips for swollen bleeding gums. You might be told to:
Practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Visit your dentist regularly and ask for tips to improve your technique. Over enthusiastic brushing and flossing can do more harm than good, leading to swollen bleeding gums.
Eat well. A well-balanced diet, including plenty of vitamin C and calcium, may reduce the likelihood of developing red swollen gums. And drinking plenty of water helps remove food particles from your teeth after a meal.
Avoid things that irritate the gums. Swollen sore gums may be aggravated by mouthwashes, alcohol and tobacco. Choose lukewarm or cool food and beverages instead of extremely hot ones that can be painful if you're nursing red swollen gums.
Relax. Stress isn't just bad for your overall health, it can also lead to swollen sore gums. Being stressed raises levels of the hormone cortisol, which leads to inflammation throughout the body -- even in your gums.
If you suffer with swollen gums, it's time to see a dentist.