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Gum Swelling: Possible Causes, Home Remedies, & When to See a Dentist

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Last updated October 29, 2020

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Gum swelling, often accompanied by bleeding gums and tenderness-to-touch, is most commonly caused by poor oral hygiene, pregnancy, infections. Plaque and tartar around the teeth and gums often cause gum inflammation and there are plenty of home remedies to treat. More serious causes should be seen by a doctor if the inflamed gums last for more than 2 weeks. Read below for all categories of causes and treatment options. We also prepared a free digital checker to help you narrow down gum swelling causes.

Gum swelling questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your swelling.

Gum swelling symptom checker

Gum swelling symptoms

You probably do not think about your gums on a daily basis. At best, they get a second look when you smile in the mirror. Just like the rest of the body, however, they can be prone to issues. The mouth stays active throughout the day, so gum swelling symptoms are quickly noticed, but how to cure them may not be so obvious.

When we brush our teeth, the focus is often on keeping the teeth clean, but the gums are just as important to keep healthy. Gums help protect the mouth, and subsequently the body, from infection. Gum swelling symptoms could be a sign of gum issues and should not be ignored.

Common accompanying symptoms of gum swelling

If you're experiencing gum swelling, it's also likely to experience:

  • Red gums
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Gum bleeding
  • Gums that are tender to the touch

Gums are soft tissue that line the mouth, providing a tight seal around the teeth. Their most important function is protecting the deeper tissue in the mouth from a wide range of periodontal issues.

Gum swelling causes

There are only a few significant causes of gum swelling, but they are all notable. Sometimes a specific event is readily attributed to the swelling or maybe it was suddenly noticeable one morning.

Environmental causes

Environmental causes of gum swelling include the following.

  • Trauma: Significant impact to the mouth can result in gum swelling symptoms and bleeding.
  • Diet: A poor diet and malnutrition could result in swollen gums. Scurvy occurs from a severe deficiency of vitamin C.
  • Oral products: Gum swelling may be a product of what goes in the mouth. For example, poorly fitting dentures, reactions to toothpaste/mouthwash, and certain medicinal side effects.
  • Hormonal: Increased blood flow to the gums from hormonal changes can cause them to swell. This condition often occurs during pregnancy.
  • Oral hygiene: Not taking care of your mouth through brushing, flossing, and professional cleaning can lead to swelling.

Gum swelling questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your swelling.

Gum swelling symptom checker

Inflammatory causes

Inflammation can result in gum swelling due to the following.

  • Infections: Bacterial infections and ulcers in the gums often lead to swelling. The most common inflammatory infection is gingivitis.
  • Autoimmune: Autoimmune disorders cause dysfunction of the body in a variety of ways. For the gums, swelling can result from conditions related to dry mouth.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.


Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums. It is typically caused by poor dental hygiene and the buildup of bacteria. Its hallmark symptoms are swollen, discolored, bleeding gums. The main risk factors for the development of the disease are increasing age, smoking, and dry mouth. It is both treatable and ..

Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (anug)

Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) is a relatively rare infection of the gums. It's also known as "trench mouth", as it was discovered in a large number of soldiers in WWI that were stuck in trenches. The pain caused by ANUG is what makes it different from chronic periodontitis, and it requires treatment by professionals.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: bleeding gums, gum pain, chronically bad breath, severe mouth pain, gum swelling

Urgency: In-person visit

Oral herpes

Herpetic stomatitis is a viral infection of the mouth that causes fever and red and inflamed gums. This typically happens early in childhood.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fever, gum pain, painful mouth sore, gum swelling, gum redness

Symptoms that always occur with oral herpes: gum pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

Blood issue that needs further testing

Your blood cells form in your bone marrow. Sometimes, the bone marrow produces abnormal cells. These cells can crowd out the healthy blood cells, making it hard for blood to do its work.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, muscle aches, fever

Urgency: In-person visit

Melanoma of the mouth

Mucosal melanoma of the head and neck (MMHN) is a rare cancer that is approximately 10% of melanomas arising in the head and neck and approximately 1% of all malignant melanomas. It is more common in an elderly population and has a poor prognosis.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: gum pain, gum swelling, brown-colored skin changes, black-colored skin changes, mouth rash resembling an amalgam tattoo

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Gum swelling questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your swelling.

Gum swelling symptom checker

Gum swelling treatments and relief

At-home treatments for gum swelling

Environmental gum swelling causes can often be treated through practical and safe measures performed at home. Basic gum care is easy to do, and gum tissue often responds well to good oral hygiene habits. It's likely that your gum swelling symptoms may resolve with some more attentive dental care practices.

  • Lifestyle: Changes in diet can help reduce swelling caused by a variety of factors. Switching toothpastes or mouthwash may provide immediate relief, as well as ensuring the body receives the proper amount of nutrients. Alcohol and tobacco are also known gum irritants.
  • Oral hygiene: Keeping the mouth and gums clean is the best way to reduce swelling and prevent it in the future. Brushing and flossing regularly may be all that is necessary. Rinsing the mouth with salt water or hydrogen peroxide mixtures may also be recommended.
  • Ice: Trauma-related inflammation can be reduced by using cold compresses on the cheek outside of the affected area.

When to see a doctor for gum swelling

If symptoms do not recede or get progressively worse, however, professional intervention may be required.

  • Gums are both swollen and red: Particularly if a routine professional cleaning has not occurred within the last six months
  • Swelling has lasted longer than two weeks
  • If you recently started new medications
  • Significant trauma has occurred

Professional/Medical treatments for gum swelling

Professional teeth cleaning will supplement at-home care, removing plaque, and reducing/preventing gum swelling. Your dentist is your best resource when evaluating treatment options for gum swelling. If typical care is not enough, he/she may have recommendations for particular toothpaste, devices to remove plaque deposits or professional treatment measures.

Questions your doctor may ask about gum swelling

  • What part of your mouth is swollen?
  • Do you have a rash?
  • Does your throat feel itchy or irritated?
  • Does your breath smell worse than usual?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

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Katie is a senior marketing manager and digital consultant. She specializes in online marketing and content marketing. She has worked in the Search Advertising for 11 years. She received her BA from Bentley University.

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