What Causes Swollen Gums?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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Swollen gums are not only aesthetically displeasing, but can be a first symptom of gum disease. Gum disease is not the only cause of swollen gums, however. The condition may also be caused by improper oral hygiene techniques, irritation caused by smoking, or chemotherapy. Mouth sores and hormonal changes may also be to blame. Working with a dentist can help people determine the reason for swollen gums.

In an attempt to properly clean their teeth, many people use poor brushing and flossing techniques. Gum tissue is soft and can easily be irritated by over-zealous brushing and flossing, resulting in swollen gums. To prevent this from happening, many dental professionals recommend the use of soft-bristled toothbrushes and brushing teeth in a circular motion. People who are concerned about their flossing and brushing habits should speak to their dentist or dental hygienist to get instruction in the best way to clean their teeth.

Gum diseases, such as gingivitis and the more serious periodontitis, are often characterized by swollen gums. Gingivitis is caused by plaque development on teeth that irritates the gums and causes them to swell, bleed, and eventually recede from the teeth. When gums recede, pockets can form between gum and tooth into which food and bacteria can enter, making the problem much worse and eventually turning into periodontitis.


Since gingivitis often isn't painful, at least in its early stages, many people ignore the condition. Unfortunately, this can have serious consequences as bacterial infection becomes worse and can spread from the gums to the teeth and jaw. This can cause tooth loss. The infection can also spread to the bloodstream, which can result in damage to a person's overall health. For this reason, swollen gums should be brought to the attention of a dental professional.

Other causes of swollen gums include irritation within the mouth. Smoking and chewing tobacco, for example, can irritate the gums and cause inflammation. Mouth sores, such as canker sores or ulcers caused by chemotherapy, can also result in swollen gums, as can medications. Birth control pills, for example, cause hormonal changes that can result in swollen and bleeding gums. Similarly, many people find that other types of hormonal changes, such as those experienced by adolescents or pregnant, menstruating, or menopausal women can cause an increase in gum sensitivity. For this reason, it is particularly important that teenagers and pregnant women take good care of their teeth in order to avoid damage caused by gum irritation and disease.


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Post 3

@everetra - That’s interesting – but it brings home an important point. I think that you can reverse, or at least mitigate, your problem with swollen gums.

The important thing is to find out what the underlying cause is and then address the condition. I have found things that have been able to help in either case however.

One swollen gums home remedy that works for me is to gargle with salt water. That seems to reduce the swelling and even eliminate some of the pain.

Post 2

@hamje32 - I developed full blown gingivitis and that was the cause of my swollen gums. However I noticed that in my case I was taking a certain medication that was making the condition worse.

There is a disease known as “hyperplasia” which takes place (in your gums) whereby they are swollen and sensitive to the touch, making it virtually impossible to brush and floss properly.

I was taking a certain medication for an illness I have which brought about the hyperplasia – it was just one of the side effects. So I made the bold decision to request that my doctor change the medication. That was my approach for how to treat swollen gums. He did so, and the gums became pink and healthy again.

Post 1

I had failed to practice proper flossing and brushing in my younger years. In my older years I tried to compensate for it. So I feverishly brushed my teeth and flossed really hard.

I became almost neurotic in my obsession to keep my teeth clean. The result was that I wound up with red swollen gums. The dentist pointed this out and noticed that I had been brushing really hard – so hard in fact that I had experienced abrasion of the tooth enamel and some gum recession.

He gave me a soft toothbrush and warned me not to brush so hard (I never thought I’d hear that advice from a dentist). He said that too much gum recession would cause my gums to be exposed and I would start experiencing sensitivity to cold water and ice. So I have been using a soft toothbrush and going easy on the flossing.

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