Swollen Gums and Sores: Causes and Symptoms

mouth and gum damage

A smile is a thing of beauty and can leave an everlasting impact. It helps you connect and create bonds with people in an instance. However, people often neglect oral hygiene and gum health which not only mars their smile but also has an overall impact on their health. Swollen gums are a result of poor oral hygiene and negligence when it comes to maintaining good oral hygiene practices.

Whenever the topic of oral health is brought up, most people focus on their teeth and the prevention of cavities. However, gums not only play an integral part in oral health but also impact the overall health of a person. Gingiva, most commonly known as gums, are the soft, pink tissue that surrounds the teeth and holds them in place. The gums absorb shocks, protect the underlying bone structure, and act as a barrier against infections.

Classification of Gum Diseases

Our mouth is a complex ecosystem that houses different kinds of bacteria. When each of the good and bad species of bacteria exists in balance, the gums stay protected against disease-causing pathogens. However, if this balance is disrupted, it provides an opportunity for the pathogens to attack the gums. The attack further creates an imbalance and results in swollen gums and sores.

Based on the severity and impact of gum diseases they are divided into two categories.

Gingivitis

Receding gums due to gingivitis

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Gingivitis is the condition that arises when a film of bacteria or plaque accumulates on the teeth. The harmful bacteria attack the gums and trigger inflammation. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. The intensity of the impact on the gums is so slight that patients might not even notice it. The problem is quickly resolved by practicing good oral hygiene. The symptoms of gingivitis include bad breath, swollen gums, reddening of gums, and bleeding while brushing. Although this particular condition does not warrant panic from the patient, leaving it untreated can lead to more severe problems.

Periodontitis

When gingivitis is left untreated, it takes a more severe form that is known as periodontitis. The condition causes severe damage to the gums and severely impacts the underlying bone structure that supports the teeth. The disease can lead to loosening of a tooth and eventual tooth loss. Periodontitis is capable of affecting a person’s overall health. The loosening of gums provides a pathway for bacteria to enter the bloodstream.

The pathogens can affect respiratory organs and the heart via the blood, causing chronic complications. Recent research suggests that arthritis, coronary artery disease, and strokes can be linked to periodontitis. However, the relationship between the mentioned diseases and gum problems warrants more evidence. Receding gums, bleeding from gums, spaces between teeth, painful chewing, uneven fitting of teeth when biting, bad breath, loose teeth, and pus between the teeth and gums all signify that the patient is suffering from periodontitis.

Causes of Swollen Gums

Swollen gums and sores are common amongst people who do not practice good oral hygiene. However, many other conditions can cause gum problems and diseases.

two toothbrushes with toothpaste

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Poor oral hygiene

Brushing and flossing are two integral components of maintaining good oral health. Failing to do so regularly and adequately is an invitation for pathogens to attack and harm the gums. Not following these habits results in plaque formation on teeth which leads to gingivitis and then periodontitis.

Improper brushing or flossing

Sometimes inappropriate brushing and flossing techniques can also harm your gums and lead to swollen gums. Roughly brushing or flossing the teeth may damage the surrounding gums leading to inflammation and bleeding.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes often result in swollen and irritated gums. During pregnancy, menstruation, puberty, and menopause there is an increase in the flow of blood to your gums. The increased blood flow makes the gums tender and irritated, resulting in swelling and reddening.

Malnutrition and vitamin deficiency

Vitamin B and C are essential components for healthy gums. A lack of these vitamins can lead to diseases such as scurvy, anemia, and gum diseases. Failing to include food rich in vitamin B and C can become a cause of swollen gums.

Allergic reactions

Every individual’s body reacts differently to different materials. Certain chemicals in toothpaste might result in irritation and inflammation of the gums. Moreover, the responses can be triggered due to a specific medication, food, and even dental fillings and restorations.

Accumulating food

spaced teeth with swollen gums

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Food can gather between the teeth and gums frequently throughout the day. Getting rid of the food everytime can become quite tricky. The condition can lead to increased bacterial growth which ultimately causes swollen gums.

Consuming hot food

Subjecting gums to hot pizza, coffee, or other foodstuffs can lead to temporarily swollen gums. The condition lasts for up to 10-14 days, and there is no danger of the inflammation resulting in gingivitis of other severe gum diseases.

Braces and faulty dental restorations

Wearing braces can create spaces between your teeth and gums. The area created encourages plaque and bacterial growth which eventually leads to swollen gums and inflammation. Failing to clean these spaces while wearing braces could lead to gingivitis and periodontitis. Moreover, the material used in tooth restoration creates rough margins around its edges. These areas become heavily infected due to bacterial growth and result in gum inflammation.

Ill-fitting dentures or partials may harm the soft gum tissue causing sores and swelling.

Smoking

woman smoking

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Smoking is one of the most common causes of mouth sores and swollen gums. People who smoke develop canker sores that lead to the inflammation of gums.

Other medical complications

Severe medical conditions like oral cancer, HIV, anemia, diabetes, and heart disease can also be the reason behind swelling in your gums. Moreover, the inflammation in the gums can often indicate serious health issues.

Injury or trauma

An injury or trauma to the mouth can also cause inflammation of gums. If the injury significantly impacts the soft lining of the gums, it may lead to swelling and bleeding.

Cavities

Tooth decay and cavities are also one of the leading causes of swelling in gums. A decaying tooth creates a pathway for bacteria to enter the dental nerve, causing swelling of the gums around itself.

Symptoms and Impact of Swollen Gums

As mentioned earlier, swollen gums are characterized by redness, bleeding, receding of gums, bad breath, and painful chewing. Moreover, gum diseases cause harm to the underlying bone structure and cause loosening of teeth. The condition also exposes the nerve endings making your teeth sensitive to hot and cold foodstuffs.

Health risks that can be aggravated by gum diseases

Gum diseases may also impact the overall health of a person or aggravate existing health issues. Therefore, it is advisable to not neglect inflammation in gums and get them checked immediately. Conditions that can be affected by gum health include the following:

Type II diabetes

person puncturing finger

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Oral health problems and swelling of the gums can create problems in controlling blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

Cardiovascular diseases and chances of a heart attack

The bacteria in the mouth find a way to enter the bloodstream via the loosened gums. Bacteria’s entry forces the body to take steps against the foreign organisms in the blood, which increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks. This also leads to elevated cholesterol levels.

Premature labor and lower infant birth weight

Periodontitis can expose pregnant women to the risks of premature birthing.

Treatment and Precautions

The conventional treatment to treat swollen gums involves a visit to the dentist. The dentist thoroughly cleans the plaque and tartar that aggravated and created the condition in the first place. Moreover, dentists may prescribe fluoride, mouth rinse, and antibiotics to help do away with inflammation in gums. However, if the gum swelling is severe the patient would be required to undergo a surgery or laser therapy to get rid of the damaged tissue.

Home remedies

If the swelling is not severe and bleeding not excessive quick home remedies can help restore your gums to the healthy condition.

Here are some home remedies that can help you get rid of swollen gums:

  • Research has shown rinsing mouth with essential oil can inhibit swelling of gums and even reduce inflammation
  • Rinsing mouth with saltwater or rubbing salt on the swelling can reduce swelling and irritation
  • Turmeric is another ingredient whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can help counter swelling and pain
  •  Aloe vera gel’s anti-bacterial property can also help in inhibiting the growth of bacteria and plaque on the teeth

Precautions

Prevention is better than cure is not just a quote but a life lesson that works the best when it comes to health. Preventing the occurrence of swollen gums can help you stay clear of the pain and irritation caused due to the condition.

Here are some of the methods that you can follow to prevent inflammation in gums:

Brushing and flossing

Woman brushing teeth

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The best way to stay clear of any oral disease is to brush your teeth twice a day. Moreover, flossing the teeth ensures food does not stay stuck in the minute spaces between teeth and gums which inhibits plaque and bacterial growth.

Using anti-bacterial mouthwash

Two bottles of mouth wash

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Rinsing mouth with anti-bacterial mouthwash can help restrict bacteria; growth in your mouth, thus preventing tooth and gum decay.

Regular dental checkups

Person undergoing a dental checkup

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Dental examinations every six months are must to ensure oral hygiene and health. Moreover, it is advisable to visit the dentist for dental cleaning procedures every two years.

Give up smoking

Smoking is a leading cause of multiple health complications. Giving up smoking will not only better your oral hygiene but also have a positive and lasting impact on your overall health.

Gum Diseases Need to Be Checked

Gum diseases are a common occurrence in America. Over three-quarters of the population over age 35 suffers from periodontal diseases. While most of the people suffer from the less severe gingivitis, there is still 5 to 15 percent population that suffer from the more serious periodontitis. The data shows that neglecting oral health is quite a common occurrence in America. However, it clearly highlights the importance of maintaining good oral health and hygiene.

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