Swollen Gums – Solutions for Treating Gum Inflammation
Firm, pink tissue that is thick and fibrous is what makes healthy gums. Unfortunately, this tissue can become swollen and inflamed, which can cause other serious oral health issues. Swollen gums can also be sensitive, easily irritated, or even painful. In addition, they might bleed more easily during brushing and flossing.
What Causes Swollen Gums?
The most common cause of swollen gums is gingivitis, a gum disease that can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease and eventual tooth loss. More often than not, gingivitis occurs due to people's failure to brush and floss daily, allowing plaque and tartar to build up at the gum line. The hardened plaque can irritate the soft tissue of the gums and lead to bacterial buildup.
It's also common for gingival swelling to occur during pregnancy, even in the absence of gum disease. However, the reason for the inflammation is very different. During this time, the body produces a rush of hormones that increases blood flow to the gums and other areas of the body, making them more easily irritated and swelling. Unfortunately, the same pregnancy hormones can also lower immune system responses, making it more difficult for the body to fight off gingivitis.
Vitamin deficiencies can cause gum swelling in people of any age or gender. Vitamins B and C are essential in the maintenance and repair of gum tissues. A lack of vitamin C can also lead to scurvy, which causes gum disease and anemia. While malnutrition is uncommon in developed nations, it's not unheard of and can cause serious oral health problems in elderly populations.
Finally, infections by bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause gum inflammation. Herpes infections can cause an acute condition called herpetic gingivostomatitis, to give just one example. Yeast infections can also lead to thrush, which causes gum swelling, and dental decay due to bacterial infections can cause abscesses.
Treatment Options for Swollen Gums
In mild cases, treatment for inflamed gums can be handled at home using over-the-counter remedies. Regardless of the cause of the swelling, people struggling with gingival inflammation should exercise care when brushing and flossing to avoid irritation. In addition, they should rinse with salt water often to get rid of bacteria. Drinking water to stimulate saliva production can also help avert irritants like alcohol and tobacco.
Suppose the swelling is severe or lasts for more than two weeks. In that case, it's time to schedule an appointment with a dentist to discuss professional treatment for swollen gums. Treatment modalities vary based on the cause of the swelling. If there is no apparent cause, the dentist may order X-rays or blood tests.
If gingivitis causes swelling, the dentist may prescribe an oral rinse and recommend a specific brand of toothpaste. Topical or oral antibiotics may also be necessary to combat serious bacterial infections. In the most severe cases, gingivitis treatment can require surgery.
How to Prevent Swollen Gums
Maintaining good oral hygiene and a healthy diet is the best way to prevent swollen gums. Be sure to brush twice and floss at least once daily, but don't brush or floss too hard. Pregnant or vitamin deficient people may want to switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush. Anyone dealing with an underlying medical condition that could be contributing to their swollen gums might also benefit from a soft-bristled toothbrush.
There are also certain foods that people who care about their gum health should avoid. They include:
- Sports drinks
- Sugary soda
- Chewy candy
- White bread
- Citrus fruits
Making some dietary adjustments may be necessary to combat gum disease or periodontitis. For example, eating more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables can help people avoid gum disease and cavities. Healthy cheeses, milk, plain yogurt, and other natural dairy products can also help. These foods contain minerals that can help to improve overall dental health, as well.
Green and black teas are also great for combatting gingivitis. The reason is that they contain polyphenols, which interact with plaque-causing bacteria by preventing them from growing and making the acids that attack the teeth and gums.
When to See a Dentist
Individuals can treat mild gum inflammation at home by improving oral hygiene routines and dietary adjustments. More severe cases should always be evaluated by a dentist, though. For example, suppose the inflammation leads to bleeding, causes severe pain, or lasts more than two weeks. In that case, it's time to schedule an appointment with a general dentist.