what does it mean when your gums are swollen

Gums have a major role to play not just in your dental health, but also in your overall health and well-being. When proper dental hygiene is not practiced, bacteria in your mouth accumulate to form plaque on your teeth. These harmful bacteria may cause inflammation in your gums which results in swollen, red, or bleeding gums.

Also called gingival swelling, swollen gums are sensitive, easily irritated, and often painful. Your swollen gums may also bleed more easily when you are flossing or brushing your teeth.

Causes Of Swollen Gums

There are many possible causes of swollen gums and contributors to gum inflammation. The best way of getting an accurate diagnosis is to discuss your particular symptoms with your dentist. However, the following are the main reasons behind the swollen and inflamed gums.

Poor Hygiene

If teeth are not properly brushed and flossed, they leave food debris behind. These food remnants can cause gum decay and inflammation, eventually developing into swollen and sick gums. 

Гum Disease

When bacteria living in your mouth cause infection in the surrounding gum tissue, it could lead to inflammation, a major cause of periodontal or gum disease.


Often, an abscessed tooth is the result on a cavity that has been left untreated allowing bacteria to thrive and infect your gums and tooth. 

Whenever you notice swollen gums, it could be the result of poor dental hygiene, gum disease, or an abscess. It is recommended that you consult a dentist to ensure the proper diagnosis is carried out and the gum properly treated.

What Are The Risk Factors of Swollen Gums

Although most people are at risk of getting periodontal (gum) disease, there are several factors that are known to increase the risk.

Malnutrition: Deficiency in vitamins, particularly vitamins B and C, can contribute to gum swelling. Check out our list of best vitamins for oral health.

Infection: Infections triggered by viruses and fungi are a major cause of inflamed and swollen gums.

Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the rush of hormones into your body may trigger an increase in the amount of blood flowing in your gums. This can lead to your gums being more easily irritated and swelling.

Other potential risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • AIDS
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Heredity
  • Defective fillings
  • Crooked teeth
  • Medications that cause dry mouth

Home Remedies For Swollen Gums

Whatever the cause of swollen, sore, and painful gums, there are concrete steps that you can towards minimizing discomfort and further gum damage.

Nutrition: Getting enough nutrition in the form of calcium, folic acid, and vitamin C helps in ensuring that you don’t experience swollen gums.

Flossing Technique: Flossing every day is important as it helps in removing plaque from areas where a toothbrush can’t reach easily. However, ensure that your flossing isn’t causing gums to bleed or swell.  When flossing, be gentle and don’t force it. 

If you cannot master the string floss, we highly recommend you try a water flosser. This is still a relatively new way of flossing, that relies solely on a strong water stream.

Lots Of Water: Drinking plenty of water helps in stimulating saliva production in your mouth, which is known to weaken disease-causing mouth bacteria.

Warm Compress: Placing a cold compress over your cheeks can help in decreasing the swelling.

Other home-based remedies include using Tea Tree Oil or Tumeric Gel as they help in reducing bleeding in your gums caused by gingivitis and preventing plaque buildup. 

When To Seek Dental Help

If you experience swollen gums for over two weeks, you need to consult a dentist. You will be asked questions about the symptoms you are having and their frequency. Depending on what caused the swelling, the dentist may prescribe specific steps to be taken. These may include oral rinses as they help in reducing plaque and preventing gingivitis.

The dentist may also recommend the use of a specific toothpaste brand. Depending on the severity, antibiotics may be prescribed and in extreme case of gingivitis, dental surgery may be required. Common surgical options include root planning and scaling. 

Concluding Thoughts

Sometimes bleeding and swollen gums can have deeper underlying medical triggers. However, spending a couple of minutes daily practicing good oral hygiene habits helps a lot. These include brushing and flossing as it can save you from having to seek expensive periodontal disease treatment later.

Author: Peter Mayhew

Peter is a dental hygienist in the city of Chicago, IL. In his free time he likes to write blogs and product reviews on anything dental health related.