Many people complain about inflamed gums. Their causes can range from simple irritation to a systemic disease. Either way, your oral health speaks mountains about the overall health of your body, so pay close attention what it’s saying. Inflamed gums may be just a clue towards a bigger health problem.
How do you know that you have inflamed gums? Inflamed gums are usually swollen, tender to the touch and sensitive to hot or cold. Sometimes the swelling or bulging can be so severe that it will obscure your teeth, or make you feel like there is something stuck between your teeth when there is nothing there. Your gums’ normal color is a coral-pink hue, but inflamed gums take on the color of a throbbing red shade, although sometimes it may take on a mottled color of white or blue. Inflamed gums may also bleed while you’re eating or brushing your teeth.
Causes of Inflamed Gums
Inflamed gums can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common causes of it are:
- Infection by a virus or fungus. Orally-transmitted viruses like the Hermes Simplex Virus (HSV) or more commonly known as cold sores, include inflamed gums as one of its earliest symptoms. (For cold sore treatment, learn how to get rid of a cold sore)
- Gingivostomatitis is a viral condition that is common to children that can result to a very sore mouth and inflamed gums. It may actually be the initial infection with the aforementioned HSV, and it may include the same symptoms. Gingivostomatitis may also be caused by Coxsackieviruses, which are part of a family of viruses that live in the human digestive tract, and other infections include Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. All these include inflamed gums as part of the early stages of infection.
- Fungal infections in the mouth include oral thrush, an infection of the yeast fungus Candida albicans, in the mucous membranes of the mouth. While Candida albicans is common, the infection is usually caused by a change in your mouth’s chemistry, which can be caused by taking certain antibiotics or undergoing chemotherapy. Ill-fitting dentures may also be a culprit.
Keep in mind that inflamed gums are usually one of the many symptoms of the viral and fungal infections mentioned above, so be sure to check other symptoms to make sure that you are suffering from any of those mentioned.
- Gingivitis. Literally called “inflammation of the gums,” gingivitis is an irritation of the gums caused by bacterial plaque that accumulates between your teeth. In time, this accumulation produces foreign toxic chemicals that cause the inflammation around your teeth. If left untreated, this inflammation can loosen your teeth and gums and may cause bone loss. Its more advanced stage may lead to periodontitis.Gingivitis occurs more among women than men. Menstrual periods and pregnancy may also cause gingivitis for women. It can also occur in diabetics, smokers and people under a great deal of stress.
- Periodontitis. Periodontitis is a major periodontal disease, usually preceded by gingivitis. If left untreated, the inflammation caused by the accumulated plaque between your teeth may cause your teeth to loosen from the gums and eventually fall out. Other than poor oral health and pre-existing gingivitis, periodontitis occurs more often to people who have diabetes, Down’s Syndrome, or any disease that may lowers your body’s resistance to infection.
- Poorly-fitting dentures. Ill-fitting dentures or dentures that have been left unadjusted for long periods of time may also make you susceptible to gum inflammation. It can cause pressure atrophy, similar to a cast being left on an arm for an unnecessary lengthened period of time. This will then cause your gums to soften and the bones beneath your gums may dissolve.
- Sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwashes. Sensitivity or even allergic reactions to certain chemicals in your toothpaste and mouthwash can cause inflamed gums.
- Reaction or side effect of drugs such as Dilantin or phenobarbital. Phenobarbital is commonly prescribed as sleep aid and treatment for certain kinds of epilepsy. Dilantin is an anti-epileptic drug and also known as an anticonvulsant.
- Malnutrition. Malnutrition greatly weakens the body and a weaker body means that you have a weaker immune system. This makes you and your gums more susceptible to infections, leading to gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Scurvy. A disease caused by insufficiency of Vitamin C in our bodies, scurvy was typical in the olden times when ship-faring men would go on months without access to a fresh supply of fruits and vegetables. We need Vitamin C for our body’s continuous collagen synthesis, since it regenerates our skin structure.
- Pregnancy. Hormonal changes throughout your pregnancy may increase the blood flow in your body, and consequently cause your gums to bleed, and become more sensitive, or inflamed.
- Systemic diseases. An increased blood flow throughout your body may also increase your chances of getting inflamed gums. Systemic diseases such as liver or kidney disorders, arterial or capillary diseases, diabetes, or heart disorder may show inflamed gums as one of its symptoms.
- Viral infections. For viral infections, the best medicine is prevention. Currently, coxsackieviruses do not have existing immunization, and children are susceptible to it. Always practice good hygiene and wash your hands frequently. It’s also advisable to avoid people who you know are infected with these diseases, and keep your children from kissing them or playing with other infected kids. Consult your doctor for the most appropriate medication or treatment for your viral infection.
- Fungal infections. Since fungal infections are caused by a change in your mouth’s chemistry, you should consider changing your medication; however, do not do this without consulting your doctor first. You can also use antifungal medicine or creams for your specific ailment. Observing good oral hygiene is also important, so use a soft toothbrush to gently brush your teeth and gums. You can also rinse your mouth with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution with water.
- Gingivitis. At the first sign of gingivitis, you should go to your doctor to have the plaque buildup around your teeth cleaned using a process called scaling. After that, you must make sure to brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day. Gingivitis may also be caused by smoking and an unbalanced diet, so make sure to reduce, if not actually quit, smoking, and eat healthier food everyday. It is also recommended to take 500 mg of calcium twice a day to make your teeth stronger. This is also recommended for pregnant women with gingivitis, as studies have shown that it is safe for pregnant women to undergo essential dental care to treat their gingivitis.
- Periodontitis. Early treatment of this disease involves a procedure that will remove the plaque deposits around your teeth as well as the inflamed tissue surrounding it. By removing the areas infected by bacteria, this procedure’s goal is for the tooth to be re-attached to your gums as well as shrink the pockets that have been eroded away by bacteria. The more complex procedure involves a minor surgery called gingivectomy, where a medicinal dressing is used to cover the deep pockets between your gums and teeth to promote healing. Another procedure is called gingvoplasty, where excessive gum tissue is removed. Both procedures are considered minor surgeries. You may be given antibiotics to treat your inflamed gums afterwards.
- Poorly-fitting dentures should be adjusted as soon as possible. Inflamed gums may also be caused by ill-maintained or unhygienic dentures, so be mindful that you are keeping your dentures clean and hygienic.
- Toothbrush. For those who think that they may be sensitive to the toothpaste or mouthwash that they’re currently using, consider switching brands, and keep an eye out for brands that have formulated their products for sensitive gums. You may also be brushing your teeth too hard, so make sure that you brush your teeth gently but thoroughly using a soft toothbrush.
- Scurvy does not commonly occur these days, but if this is the cause of your inflamed gums, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C. Adults need to consume around 300-1,000 mg of ascorbic acid per day and 50mg/day in case of infants to effectively treat the disease.
- Medication. For those who are suffering from inflamed gums as a side effect to their medication, make sure to consult first with your doctor before opting to change your medication.
Don’t forget: Inflamed gums may be a symptom to a bigger problem, such as an oral viral infection or a systemic one, so keep an eye out for other accompanying symptoms. It may also be pointing towards poor oral hygiene, an unhealthy lifestyle or an unbalanced diet. The best way to treat inflamed gums is to prevent them from ever happening.
Eat healthy, brush your teeth, floss, and have a regular checkup and cleaning with your dentist twice a year. Having good oral hygiene is the best way to keep your gums healthy. If you enjoyed reading this article, you’ll surely enjoy reading how to care for your teeth.