The tissue that forms the gums is thick, fibrous, and full of blood vessels. Hence, when there is swelling, the gums tend to protrude or bulge out and appear red instead of their normal pink.
Even though swelling of the gums is a common problem, it should be taken as a red flag indicative of some other serious condition at the base of it.
Moreover, a seemingly harmless episode of swollen gums can spiral into far graver dental issues that can cause tooth decay. For instance, negligence and delay in addressing obvious signs of gum inflammation right from the onset pave the way for advanced gum diseases such as periodontitis, a condition known to cause tooth loss.
Thus, it is imperative that you pay concerted attention to your oral health and proactively treat issues such as gum swelling to reverse the damage.
What Causes Gum Swelling?
Gum swelling can be due to a number of issues, such as:
- Gum disease, which in its initial and relatively mild stage is called gingivitis, often manifests itself in the form of swollen gums. Improper oral hygiene encourages the mouth bacteria to cover the teeth with a film of plaque, eventually leading to inflamed gums that appear red and swollen and are prone to bleeding. Gingivitis must be stopped in its tracks by attending to it promptly; otherwise, it could escalate to a more serious form of gum infection called periodontitis, which can result in tooth loss.
- People undergoing chemotherapy might experience swollen gums due to the development of sores and ulcers on the gums as well as throughout the mouth.
- Hormonal imbalances, particularly in women during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause have also been associated with inflamed gums. The use of oral contraceptive pills tends to engender a similar effect.
- Excessive use of tobacco, either in the form of smoking or direct consumption of tobacco products, can be extremely damaging to your gum health and make you susceptible to a range of gum problems, from swollen gums to painful sores.
- Incorrect or vigorous brushing or flossing techniques can also irritate and hamper your gums. Also using brushes with hard bristles can cause injury to your gums.(1)
- Allergic reactions to components of your toothpaste, food, medication, or even dental restorations can lead to the problem of inflamed gums.
- A misaligned tooth can also poke and prick at the gums over a prolonged period and cause a flare-up in the gums.
- Burning your mouth by consuming excessively heated food can also temporarily cause swelling in the gums.
- Other common causes include poorly fitting dentures or other dental appliances, nutritional deficiencies particularly of vitamin B and C, stress, sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwash, and an injury.(2)
Signs and Symptoms of Gum Swelling
- The gums have dark pinkish, reddish, bluish, or purplish hues.
- The papilla between the teeth appears blunted or there is no papilla at all.
- The gums tend to bleed at the slightest application of pressure, for instance, while brushing or flossing.
- Pain in the gums that ranges from uncomfortable to excruciating.
- Gums become increasingly sensitive to temperature.
Preventing Gum Swelling
- Follow a regular and appropriate oral hygiene regimen that involves brushing twice daily and flossing once a day. Do this with a light but steady hand, to avoid applying undue pressure on the gums. Also, brushing your teeth in circular motions instead of the back-and-forth motion is recommended. While flossing, gently move the thread up and down following the curve of the tooth.
- An antiseptic mouthwash is a good and effective value addition to your oral hygiene regimen, as it helps to eradicate the inflammation-causing bacteria in the mouth.
- If you notice that the swelling in your gums followed in the footsteps of a medication that you have only recently started taking, the former could very well be the side effect of the latter. Consult your doctor for a suitable alternative to the drug.
- Up your intake of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and B, and follow a well-rounded diet in general.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stimulate the production of saliva, which naturally helps kill bacteria. Also, drinking water after meals can help rinse your teeth and gums off food remnants and reduces the chance of plaque accumulation.
- Minimize alcohol consumption as it can exacerbate the damaging effect.
- Manage your stress levels, as stress leads to a spike in the cortisol hormone levels in the body and inflammation often follows suit.
When to See a Doctor
If the swelling in your gums persists for more than two weeks, you should seek professional help right away to determine the cause of the problem and zero in on a suitable treatment plan.
Why Must You Get Dental Checkups Regularly?
No matter how unfailingly you brush and floss your teeth, your dental safety net cannot be secure enough without regular visits to the dentist. Oral health is usually not accorded the same importance as other prevalent health concerns.
As a result, most people tend to overlook the early symptoms of a dental problem, only to deal with the damage it causes later. You can save yourself a lot of trouble and pain by enlisting the help of a dentist to give your oral cavity a more thorough scan and cleaning.
The dentist will evaluate your dental and oral condition and will stipulate the necessary oral hygiene regime accordingly.
If you figure among the high-risk patients, you may need to drop by the dentist more frequently for a timely assessment. The recommended number of dental visits also lies at the discretion of your dentist, who will take into account all the necessary oral health markers such as plaque accumulation, dental cavities, gum swelling and gum bleeding before determining your need for professional cleaning and treatment.
Thus, besides the standard brushing and flossing, it will serve you well to follow another foundational rule in the oral hygiene book: get regular dental checkups by a professional to catch and reverse any sign of oral disease in its nascent stages!
You can soothe the pain and swelling of your gums with proper oral hygiene and home remedies. However, if you have swollen gums and symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, see your dentist.
Simple Ways to Get Rid of Gum Swelling
Here are 10 home remedies to reduce gum swelling.
1. Warm and Cold Compresses
Warm and cold compresses can provide quick relief for sore, swollen gums as they help reduce pain and swelling. You need to hold the compresses against your face, not directly on the swollen gums.(3)(4)
- Soak a clean cloth in warm water and wring out the excess liquid.
- Hold the cloth against your face for 5 minutes.
- Next, wrap a bag of frozen peas in a thin towel and hold it against your face until the area becomes slightly numb.
- Repeat the cycle two or three more times.
- Use this remedy as needed.
2. Salt Water can Give You Easy Relief
Salt is another effective remedy for swollen gums. It inhibits the growth of bacteria in the mouth and prevents infections that may contribute to several oral health issues.
A 2016 study published in PLOS One found that the use of salt solution as a mouth rinse, in conjunction with routine oral care, promotes oral wound healing.(5)
Another 2016 study published in Neonatal and Pediatric Medicine found that salt water works as an astringent to expedite wound healing by reducing inflammation and contracting the tissues, thereby proving considerably effective for recuperation from periodontal wounds.(6)
- After brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush, gently rub your gums with salt for a few seconds. Rinse it off with warm water. Do this once daily. Even after your gums have recovered completely, continue following this technique at least three times a week to prevent recurrence.
- Another option is to add a ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt to a glass of lukewarm water and use it to rinse your mouth twice daily until the swelling subsides.
3. Fight Germs Using Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide can also help reduce gum inflammation and pain. It can even help kill germs and fight oral problems. For oral health, use food-grade 3% hydrogen peroxide solution only.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry found that H2O2 concentration higher than 0.1% has been shown to possess a wide spectrum of antimicrobial activity. Mouthwashes containing H2O2 significantly reduced the gingival index and enhanced wound healing following gingival surgery.(7)
- Mix equal parts of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution and water. Swish the solution in your mouth for 30 seconds such that it washes over your gums and teeth. Rinse it off with warm water.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with enough hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. Rub this paste on your gums, wait for 1 minute, and then rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.
- Use either of these treatments two or three times a week.
4. Apply Turmeric Paste to the Affected Area
Turmeric is also a good home remedy for swollen gums. It contains curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
In addition, it prevents the spread of bacterial activity that causes several oral problems.(8)
- Mix ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder with a little water to make a paste.
- Apply this paste on the gums with your clean finger.
- Leave it on for 5 minutes, and then massage your gums gently for 1 minute.
- Rinse your mouth with warm water.
- Repeat this twice daily for 1 to 2 weeks.
5. Try Lemongrass Oil Mouthwash
Enriched with vitamin A, C, and E, lemongrass oil is a therapeutic oil with much potential.
This oil has been known to possess analgesic, antimicrobial, antidepressant, antiseptic, antipyretic, bactericidal, astringent, deodorant, fungicidal, nervine, and sedative properties. Its aroma is citrusy fresh and adds a lot to the health benefits.(9)
A 2014 study published in the Libyan Journal of Medicine found that oral and topical application of lemongrass oil showed significant anti-inflammatory and antifungal effect on a mouse model.(10)
Another 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that lemongrass oil mouthwash demonstrated antiplaque and antigingivitis activity and therefore could effectively be used as a good herbal alternative to chlorhexidine mouthwash.(11)
To use a lemongrass mouthwash:
- Dilute 2 to 3 drops of lemongrass essential oil in 1 cup of water.
- Swish the solution in your mouth for up to 1 minute.
- Spit out the solution.
- Repeat this two to three times per day.
6. Use Aloe Vera Gel to Soothe the Gums
Another effective remedy to treat swollen and bleeding gums is aloe vera. This herb has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can prevent the growth of plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth and soothe inflamed gums.(12)(13)
- Cut open an aloe vera leaf and scoop out the gel.
- With a clean finger, rub the gel on your gums.
- Gently massage your gums for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Rinse it off with warm water.
- Repeat a few times daily until there is an improvement in your condition.
7. Ease Discomfort with Tea Tree Oil
A 2004 study published in Oral Microbiology and Immunology showed that tea tree oil exhibited strong antibacterial activity against periodontopathic and cariogenic bacteria.(16)
- Mix a few drops of tea tree oil in a glass of warm water. Use it as a mouthwash twice daily.
- Brush your teeth with a toothpaste containing tea tree oil as the main ingredient to ease discomfort.
Follow these remedies daily until your gums look healthy again.
8. Oil Pulling Technique
Whether it is inflamed gums or any other dental problem, oil pulling is a good way to prevent oral health issues. This age-old Ayurvedic practice helps reduce the growth of bacteria in the mouth that causes infection. It even prevents plaque formation and strengthens the gums.(17)
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine highlighted the efficacy of incorporating the oil pulling technique into your routine oral hygiene regimen as a complementary method to further enhance your dental health. This method, when practiced correctly and regularly, can bear considerable positive results.(18)
- Put 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in your mouth.
- Swish the oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Spit out the oil, and then rinse your mouth thoroughly with warm water.
- Finally, brush your teeth.
- Do this daily in the morning before brushing your teeth.
9. Up Your Vitamin D Intake
If you are prone to the problem of swollen gums, increasing your intake of vitamin D can be especially beneficial in ridding yourself of this condition. Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce swelling and prevent it from recurring.
Vitamin D also helps the body make full use of the calcium from your diet, thus improving periodontal health and increasing bone mineral density.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Oral Research and Review further supported the claim that vitamin D supplementation has a mitigating effect on bone destruction and inflammation and, therefore, can be useful in reducing and preventing tooth decay on account of periodontal diseases in deficient patients.(19)
- Help your body make vitamin D by exposing yourself to early morning sunlight for about 10 minutes daily.
- Eat vitamin D-rich foods such as salmon, whole eggs, sunflower seeds, and cod liver oil.
- You can opt to take a supplement, after consulting your doctor.
10. Take Proper Nutrients
Proper and balanced nutrition is essential for healthy gums and teeth. Make sure you get adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin C, and folic acid from your diet to prevent swollen gums, especially because inflamed gums are often rooted in a deficiency of any of these elements.(20)(21)
- Eat vitamin C-rich foods, such as oranges, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, and kale.
- Eat calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, sardines, tofu, salmon, soy milk, cereals, and collard greens.
- Eat foods with high levels of folic acid, such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, peas, beans, lentils, and avocados.
- If needed, you can take supplements, but only after consulting your doctor.
- Replace your toothbrush every three months and use only soft-bristled toothbrushes.
- Avoid very hot or very cold food and beverages.
- Visit your dentist at least once every six months for a checkup.
- Goyal S, Gupta G, Thomas B, Bhat KM, Bhat GS. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3895311/. Industrial Psychiatry Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3895311/. Published 2013.
- Beikler T, Flemmig TF. Oral biofilm‐associated diseases: trends and implications for quality of life, systemic health and expenditures. Periodontology 2000. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0757.2010.00360.x. Published December 7, 2010.
- Malanga GA, Yan N, Stark J. Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury. Postgraduate medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25526231. Published January 2015.
- Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses For Pain. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/orthopaedic_disorders/ice_packs_vs_warm_compresses_for_pain_85,p00918.
- Huynh NC-N, Everts V, Leethanakul C, Pavasant P, Ampornaramveth RS. Rinsing with Saline Promotes Human Gingival Fibroblast Wound Healing In Vitro. PLOS ONE. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0159843. Published July 21, 2016.
- Saini R. Periodontal Wound Healing: Future Perspective. Neonatal and Pediatric Medicine. https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/periodontal-wound-healing-future-perspective-pdc-1000e103.php?aid=79386. Published September 3, 2016.
- Rashed HT. Evaluation of the effect of hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash in comparison with chlorhexidine in chronic periodontitis patients: A clinical study. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4916793/. Published 2016.
- Chaturvedi TP. Uses of turmeric in dentistry: An update. Indian Journal of Dental Research. http://www.ijdr.in/article.asp?issn=0970-9290;year=2009;volume=20;issue=1;spage=107;epage=109;aulast=Chaturvedi. Published 2009.
- Rajesvari R, Lakshmi T. Lemon grass oil for improvement of oral health. American Biodontics Society and the Center for Research and Education in Technology. http://www.dentalhypotheses.com/article.asp?issn=2155-8213;year=2013;volume=4;issue=4;spage=115;epage=117;aulast=Rajesvari. Published 2013.
- b Boukhatem MN, Ferhat MNBMA, Kameli MNBMAFA. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) essential oil as a potent anti-inflammatory and antifungal drugs. Libyan Journal of Medicine. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3402/ljm.v9.25431. Published 2014.
- Dany SS, Mohanty P, Tangade P, Rajput P, Batra M. Efficacy of 0.25% Lemongrass Oil Mouthwash: A Three-Arm Prospective Parallel Clinical Study. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: JCDR. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4625327/. Published October 2015.
- Ajmera N, Chatterjee A, Goyal V. Aloe vera: It’s the effect on gingivitis. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3800403/. Published 2013.
- Bhat G, Kudva P, Dodwad V. Aloe vera: Nature’s soothing healer to periodontal disease. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3200013/. Published 2011.
- Elgendy EA, Ali SA-M, Zineldeen DH. Effect of local application of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil gel on long pentraxin level used as an adjunctive treatment of chronic periodontitis: A randomized controlled clinical study. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3800405/. Published 2013.
- Soukoulis S, Hirsch R. The effects of a tea tree oil‐containing gel on plaque and chronic gingivitis. Australian Dental Journal. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1834-7819.2004.tb00054.x. Published March 12, 2008.
- Takarada K, Kimizuka R, Takahashi N, Honma K, Okuda K, Kato T. A comparison of the antibacterial efficacies of essential oils against oral pathogens. Oral Microbiology and Immunology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.0902-0055.2003.00111.x. Published December 16, 2003.
- Naseem M, Khiyani MF, Nauman H, Zafar MS, Shah AH, Khalil HS. Oil pulling and importance of traditional medicine in oral health maintenance. International Journal of Health Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5654187/. Published 2017.
- Sheen LY, Isidoro C. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. https://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-traditional-and-complementary-medicine.
- Sharma H, Arora R, Bhatnagar MA. Reconnoitering the relationship between “The Sunshine Vitamin” and periodontal disease. Journal of Oral Research and Review. http://www.jorr.org/article.asp?issn=2249-4987;year=2017;volume=9;issue=2;spage=89;epage=95;aulast=Sharma. Published 2017.
- Yussif NM, Aziz MA, Rahman ARA. Evaluation of the Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Locally Delivered Vitamin C in the Treatment of Persistent Gingival Inflammation: Clinical and Histopathological Study. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnme/2016/2978741/. Published December 5, 2016.
- George JP, Shobha R, Lazarus FJ. Folic acid: A positive influence on periodontal tissues during health and disease. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307677876. Published January 2013.