Read below about gum pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your gum pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Gum Pain Symptoms

Painful gums are most commonly due to inflammation of the gums or gingiva. This condition is known as gingivitis. The most common cause of gingivitis is buildup of bacteria on the teeth and gums, which is called plaque. However dental infections, mouth infections and other medical illnesses are all causes of painful gums. Some causes of gum pain can be treated at home. Good dental hygiene (brushing and flossing) as well as regular dental visits help prevent gingivitis. Other causes of gum pain, particularly infectious causes, may require treatment by a dentist or doctor. [1,2]

Symptoms that can be associated with gum pain include: [1]

Gum Pain Causes

The most common cause of gum pain is inflammation of the gums or gingivitis. One of the most common causes of gingivitis is the buildup of bacteria (called plaque) on the teeth and gums leading to irritation and pain. Other causes of gingivitis include mechanical irritation, medications, nutritional deficiencies or other systemic illnesses. Infections in the teeth or mouth can also lead to gum pain symptoms. Some infections in the back of the mouth can cause pain as well as life-threatening swelling and require emergency medical treatment. Headache, dysfunction in the jaw joint, or nerve dysfunction in the face are other possible causes of gum pain. 1,2,3,4,5

Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums):

  • Plaque Build Up: Plaque is buildup of bacteria that occurs on the teeth and the gums. In some cases, the bacteria and the immune response to the bacteria can cause irritation and inflammation to the gums. [2]
  • Mechanical Irritation: Irritation from brushing, flossing, or dental procedures can lead to inflammation of the gums and cause gum pain symptoms. [6]
  • Medications: Certain medications can cause enlargement of the gums which can lead to plaque buildup, irritation, pain, or bleeding. Calcium channel blockers, a common blood pressure medication, phenytoin (Dilantin) and cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant, may cause gum pain symptoms. [7]
  • Systemic Conditions: Some chronic medical conditions including diabetes, vitamin deficiency, immunodeficiency disorders, or genetic disorders are associated with gingivitis. [2,8]
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal fluctuations in pregnancy can lead to gingivitis and cause painful gums. [9]

Infectious causes:

  • Dental Infection: Plaque buildup on the surface of the tooth can erode into the tooth and cause infection in the tooth itself. Plaque can also get into the space between the tooth and the gum, leading to infections of the gums and tissue and bone that underlie the gums. [11]
  • Soft Tissue Infections: The soft tissue below the tongue and in the back of the mouth can become infected and may be accompanied by gum or tooth pain. These infections can occasionally cause life-threatening swelling to the airway leading to stridorous or wheezy breathing and respiratory distress and may require emergency medical treatment. [11]
  • Sinus Infection: Sinus infections may cause referred pain to the mouth, teeth, or gums. [12]

Other causes:

  • Headache: Headaches, particularly migraines, might present with gum pain or tooth pain. [12,14]
  • Joint Dysfunction: The jaw joint can become inflamed and lead to pain in the teeth, gums, or jaw. This pain is often present with chewing or biting. [14]
  • Nerve Dysfunction: Dysfunction to the nerves that supply the face can cause pain to gums, teeth or jaw. This pain is typically shooting and present only on one side of the face. [15]

5 Possible Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced gum pain. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

  1. 1.Gingivitis

    Gingivitis is the infection of the gums surrounding the teeth. It is caused by plaque and/or tartar that has built up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky layer of gunk made by food particles, mucus, and bacteria. After a while, plaque hardens to become tartar (or calculus). Plaque and tartar at the bottom of the teeth causes the gums to become irritated and infected.

    Great, with dental care and improvement in dental hygiene

    Top Symptoms:
    bleeding gums, gum pain, gum swelling, gum redness
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.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.

    1-2 weeks but recurrent

    Top Symptoms:
    fever, gum pain, painful mouth sore, gum swelling, gum redness
    Symptoms that always occur with oral herpes:
    gum pain

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  3. 3.Cold Sore

    Cold sores (also called oral herpes or fever blisters), are viral infections of the mouth caused by the herpes virus type 1. You were probably infected very early in life as a child when an adult kissed you. The virus stays asleep (dormant) and causes infections every now and then after exposure to lots of sun or emotional/physical stress. It is contagious when an outbreak is happening, but treatment is limited unless you are immunocompromised.

    1-2 weeks. Natural healing process starts within 24 hours of the initial sore starting.

    Top Symptoms:
    mouth lesions, itchy mouth, pain on the outside of the lips, lip numbness, burning pain on the outside of the lips
    Symptoms that always occur with cold sore:
    mouth lesions
  4. 4.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.

    Good prognosis with treatment. Without treatment, ANUG can become recurrent and chronic.

    Top Symptoms:
    bleeding gums, gum pain, chronically bad breath, severe mouth pain, gum swelling
    In-person visit
  5. 5.Dry Socket (Postextraction Alveolar Osteitis)

    Dry socket (or postextraction alveolar osteitis) is a common cause of severe pain after a dental extraction (tooth pull). It's known to be related to how the extraction was done, menstrual cycle, tobacco smoking, age, sex, and whether you have had an extraction before.

    You need to be seen by a dentist after initial treatment. Prognosis is good, though. If untreated, pain can last 10-40 days.

    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant mouth pain, chronically bad breath, changed sense of taste, severe mouth pain, mouth pain at the site of a dental procedure
    Symptoms that always occur with dry socket (postextraction alveolar osteitis):
    mouth pain at the site of a dental procedure, constant mouth pain
    Hospital emergency room

Gum Pain Treatments, Relief and Prevention

Seek emergency gum pain treatment if:

  • You have significant swelling in the mouth that may compromise breathing [11]
  • You are unable to open your mouth [14]

Home gum pain treatments include:

  • Brushing and flossing: Regular brushing with toothpaste that contains fluoride and regular dental flossing are the best ways to prevent plaque buildup and dental infection. [16]
  • Antiseptic Mouth Rinse: People who have had dental infections or gingivitis in the past should use antimicrobial mouth rinses like chlorhexidine to prevent recurrence. [16]
  • Smoking Cessation: Smoking tobacco can contribute to plaque buildup and dental infections. [16]
  • Avoidance of sugar-rich food and drink: Consuming sugary foods and drinks can contribute to plaque buildup and dental infections. [6]

Medical professional gum pain treatments include:

  • Regular Dental Visits: Regular visits to a dentist for hygiene are important for prevention of gingivitis, plaque buildup, and dental infections. [6]
  • Antibiotics: If a dental infection is causing gum pain, a doctor or dentist may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. [16]
  • Drainage or tissue removal: If a mouth infection is causing gum pain, a doctor or dentist may need to drain the infection with a needle or remove infected tissue from the area. [16]
  • Tooth Removal: In some cases, infected teeth need to be removed by a doctor or dentist. [16]
  • Medications: If a doctor suspects gum irritation and pain due to medications, they may change your prescription. Do not stop or change your medications without consulting a doctor.If a doctorsuspects your gum pain is due to an underlying illness, they may prescribe medications to treat the underlying cause. [3]

FAQs About Gum Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about gum pain.

Can cavities cause gum pain?

Yes. Cavities, especially if they penetrate the root of the tooth, can cause gum pain along the gum just below the affected tooth. Usually, the pain is so severe that it is often results in dental care prior to the development of gum pain, but if it is not, the nerve will die, the tooth may fall out, and the infection can often track down into the gum. [17]

Why do my gums hurt in one spot?

Gums may hurt in one spot if you have a sore anywhere along the gums. This can occur from consumption of hard or sharp foods, a gum abscess, or from an infection trapped within the gums. Food trapped between teeth can also exert pressure upon the gums, and if not removed by flossing, it can cause pain in the gums. [6,11]

Why are my gums bleeding and painful?

Bleeding, swollen, or painful gums can be a sign of early periodontal disease or periodontitis. Inflammation can cause a loss of supportive connective tissue or bone and disconnection of teeth from gums. It may cause bleeding upon brushing or probing and increased tooth mobility as well as increased systemic illness from bacteria in the mouth entering the blood streams. [10]

Why do I have pain in the gums between my teeth?

Buildup of food between the teeth can contribute significantly to pain and can be alleviated by regular flossing once or twice per day. Making sure that plaque and excess food debris is removed is very important for proper dental health and hygiene. Daily flossing in addition to brushing is recommended. [16]

Can bleeding gums become infected?

Yes, bleeding gums can become infected and often are exposed to different bacteria on the food that we eat. Gums that are inflamed and bleed on probing may have early stage periodontal disease which is often caused by bacterial colonization of teeth and consumption of foods that promote bacterial growth without adequate hygiene. [2]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Gum Pain

  • Q.Where specifically is your mouth pain?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our gum pain symptom checker to find out more.

Gum Pain Quiz

Gum Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced gum pain have also experienced:

    • 8% Toothache
    • 8% Gum Swelling
    • 3% Swollen Face
  • People who have experienced gum pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 47% Less Than a Week
    • 27% Less Than a Day
    • 11% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced gum pain were most often matched with:

    • 60% Gingivitis
    • 20% Oral Herpes
    • 20% Cold Sore
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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  1. Symptoms: Gum disease. NHS. NHS Link. Reviewed February 4, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  2. Causes: Gum disease. NHS. NHS Link. Reviewed February 4, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  3. How medications can affect your oral health. JADA. 2005;136:831. JADA Link. Published June 2005. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  4. Gupta RC. Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis). Kids Health. Kids Health Link. Published May 2015. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  5. Diagnosis: Trigeminal neuralgia. NHS. NHS Link. Reviewed August 2, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  6. Teeth & Gum Care. Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic Link. Reviewed January 4, 2015. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  7. How medications can affect your oral health. JADA. 2005;136:831. JADA Link. Published June 2005. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  8. Livada R, Shiloah J. Gummy smile: could it be genetic? Hereditary gingival fibromatosis. Journal of the Michigan Dental Association. 2012; 94(12):40-3. J Mich Dent Assoc Link. Published December 2012. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  9. Wu M, Chen S-W, Jiang S-Y. Relationship between Gingival Inflammation and Pregnancy. Mediators of Inflammation. 2015;2015:623427. Mediators Inflamm Link. Published March 22, 2015. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  10. Loesche WJ, Grossman NS. Periodontal Disease as a Specific, albeit Chronic, Infection: Diagnosis and Treatment. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2001;14(4):727-752. Clin Microbiol Rev Link. Published October 2001. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  11. Chow AW. Orofacial Infections. Infectious Disease & Antimicrobial Agents: Antimicrobe. Antimicrobe Link. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  12. Blahd Jr WH, Husney A, Pope J, Romito K, Healthwise Staff. Toothache and Gum Problems. C.S. Mott Children's Hospital: Michigan Medicine. Mott Children Link. Published November 20, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  13. Nixdorf DR, Velly AM, Alonso AA. Neurovascular Pains: Implications of Migraine for the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon. Oral and maxillofacial surgery clinics of North America. 2008;20(2):221-vii. Oral Maxillofac Surg Clin North Am Link. Published May 2008. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  14. Jaw problems and headaches. Oral Health Foundation. Dental Health Link. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  15. Symptoms: Trigeminal neuralgia. NHS. NHS Link. Reviewed August 2, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  16. Treatment: Gum disease. NHS. NHS Link. Reviewed February 4, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2018.
  17. Burgess P, Husney A, Gabica MJ, Romito K, Christen AG, Healthwise Staff. Tooth and Gum Pain: Care Instructions. Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser Permanente Link. Published March 28, 2018. Accessed October 3, 2018.