Swollen Gums

Swollen gums are a common symptom of gingivitis and other types of gum disease. But they can also point to other health conditions like infection, vitamin deficiencies or hormonal changes. Treatment depends on the cause.


What do swollen gums mean?

Swollen gums are a common symptom of gum disease. But you can develop sore, inflamed gums for a number of reasons. Other culprits include infections, hormonal changes and vitamin deficiencies. Swollen gums can be a temporary or permanent condition.

What do swollen gums look like?

Swollen gums usually have a reddish or purplish hue due to increased blood flow. They may also appear smooth or shiny, and they usually bleed.


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Symptoms and Causes

What causes swollen gums?

Swollen gums happen for many reasons. Dental issues often cause this symptom. But it can also result from underlying health conditions.

Dental causes include:

  • Getting something stuck in your gums, like a popcorn hull.
  • Abscessed tooth.
  • Gingivitis (early-stage gum disease).
  • Periodontitis (advanced gum disease).
  • Trench mouth (severe gum disease).
  • Gingivostomatitis (viral or bacterial infection of your mouth).
  • Poorly fitting dentures.
  • Orthodontic treatment.
  • Tooth decay.
  • Infected tooth.
  • Root fracture.
  • Unknown object caught under your gums (like food or dental cement).

Other causes include:

Management and Treatment

How do healthcare providers treat swollen gums?

Swollen gum treatment depends on the cause. If gum disease is the culprit, a dentist or periodontist (gum specialist) can recommend gum disease treatment.

Common dental treatments for swollen gums include:

  • Antibiotics.
  • Brushing and flossing your teeth more.
  • Tooth scaling and root planing (deep dental cleaning).
  • Osseous surgery (to reduce the pockets around your teeth).
  • LANAP® (laser-assisted new attachment procedure).

If you only have swelling around one tooth, it could mean you have a dental abscess. In this case, a dentist may recommend root canal therapy or a tooth extraction.

If you have swollen gums but you don’t have gum disease, your healthcare provider will need to find out why. They’ll likely order tests to see if you have another health condition like an infection, diabetes or vitamin deficiencies. After they find the cause, they’ll recommend the appropriate treatment.

Home remedies for swollen gums

When swollen gums last longer than two weeks, you should schedule an appointment with a dentist. In the meantime, there are things you can do at home to ease your symptoms:

  • Brush and floss your teeth daily.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater a few times a day.
  • Apply an ice pack to your face to reduce swelling and inflammation.


Can gum swelling go away?

Yes, swollen gums can go away with proper treatment. In some cases, swelling can even get better on its own. For example, if you have a piece of food stuck in your gums, swelling should go away once you remove the food particle. But if gum disease causes swollen gums, you’ll probably need treatment. The sooner you treat gum disease, the better your chances for long-term oral health.

If other factors cause swollen gums, your healthcare provider will recommend the appropriate treatment. But specific treatment depends on the underlying cause.

When should I call a healthcare provider?

You should call a dentist or periodontist if gum swelling lasts longer than a couple weeks. Regardless of the cause, prompt treatment can prevent issues from getting worse.

If you develop severe pain that doesn’t get better with medication, seek dental care right away.

Questions to ask your healthcare provider

If you have sore, swollen gums, here are some questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • Why are my gums swollen?
  • Do I have gum disease?
  • Could any of my medications cause swollen gums?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes you recommend?
  • Do I need to see a periodontist?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Do you suspect any underlying health conditions?


Additional Common Questions

Why is my gum swollen around one tooth?

If you only notice swelling around one tooth, it could be something as simple as food stuck in your gums. Generally, this type of inflammation goes away once you brush and floss to remove the object.

But in some cases, swelling around one tooth could mean you have a dental abscess. There are two types of dental abscesses:

  • Periapical abscess. This happens when infection reaches your tooth pulp. The infection can spread down to your tooth roots and surrounding bone, resulting in swollen gums. Some people develop severe jaw swelling as well.
  • Periodontal abscess. This type of abscess is a pocket of pus (infection) around your tooth. It looks like a red ball pushing through your gums. It happens when gum disease erodes the tissues and bone that support your teeth.

Both types of abscesses can occur around one tooth. But left untreated, they can spread to other teeth and even other areas of your body, including your bloodstream. If the infection reaches your bloodstream, it can be life-threatening.

Is it normal to get swollen gums with braces?

It’s more difficult to properly brush and floss your teeth when you have braces. Without adequate brushing and flossing, dental plaque builds up around the brackets and wires, resulting in red, swollen and bleeding gums.

To avoid this, brush and floss diligently every day. You can also ask your dentist about product recommendations like dental picks, floss threaders and interproximal brushes.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

You might feel concerned if you look in the mirror and notice swollen gums. Inflamed gums are a warning that something isn’t quite right in your body. Gum disease is the most common cause. But inflamed gums can point to other health conditions too, like diabetes, hormone changes and vitamin deficiencies. If you have swollen gums that last longer than two weeks, let your healthcare provider know. They can find the cause and recommend the right treatment.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/17/2023.

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