A bright smile can light up a room, but when that smile is marred by swollen gums, the discomfort can be both physically uncomfortable and confidence-shattering. Swollen, or inflamed gums, known in dental parlance as gingival swelling, are a common issue, and while often unsettling, understanding the underlying causes and appropriate inflamed gums treatments can provide solace and solutions.
So, if you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “why are my gums swollen?” or “how to treat swollen gums in the back of my mouth?”, this comprehensive guide is for you. Let’s take a look!
Recognising Swollen Gums
Before taking a look at some effective treatments, it’s pivotal to be able to recognise the symptoms. Swollen gums often present themselves as:
- Redness and Inflammation: Healthy gums typically have a pale pink hue, while swollen gums tend to be redder and puffier.
- Receding gums. Receding gums can also accompany swollen gums, and can be identified by gums that appear thinner and pull away from the teeth. While receding gums can be treated effectively with a gum graft treatment, it’s still important to tackle underlying problems.
- Tenderness or Pain: You might experience discomfort or pain when touching the gums or while eating and drinking.
- Bleeding: Inflamed gums can bleed more easily when brushing or flossing, especially in more hard-to-reach areas like the back of the mouth.
- Bad Breath: Chronic bad breath or a persistent bad taste in your mouth can often accompany gum swelling, even when you’re maintaining an immaculate oral care routine.
Common Causes of Swollen Gums
While not always a cause for immediate concern, here are some of the most-cited causes of swollen gums:
Poor oral hygiene
One of the simplest and most avoidable causes of swollen gums is inadequate oral hygiene. This is because poor oral hygiene leads to the accumulation of plaque – a sticky, bacteria-laden film – which can then cause inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue. Here’s why consistent, efficient oral hygiene is so important:
- Infrequent Brushing and Flossing: Not cleaning your teeth regularly allows bacteria to flourish, producing toxins that can irritate the gums.
- Poor brushing or flossing techniques: Even if you brush and floss daily, ineffective methods can miss out on plaque, especially when considering how to treat swollen gums in the back of the mouth.
- Not incorporating mouthwash: A suitable antimicrobial mouthwash can help kill bacteria and alleviate inflammation; ignoring this step can compromise overall oral hygiene.
Also Read: Why Are My Gums Bleeding?
Gingivitis and periodontitis
Two progressive stages of gum disease – gingivitis and periodontitis – are also two notable culprits behind swollen gums:
- Gingivitis: This early stage of gum disease is characterised by redness, swelling, and bleeding. It’s primarily caused by plaque buildup but is reversible with proper dental care.
- Periodontitis: If gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease. Periodontitis affects the bone supporting the teeth and can lead to tooth loss, and swelling, bleeding, and pain are more pronounced at this stage.
Hormonal changes and pregnancy gingivitis
The ebb and flow of hormones throughout life can have unexpected effects on gum health:
- Pregnancy: Many pregnant women experience what is known as ‘pregnancy gingivitis,’ where hormonal changes increase blood flow to the gum tissue, making them more sensitive and easily inflamed.
- Menstrual Cycle: Some women may notice gum sensitivity and swelling before their periods due to hormonal fluctuations.
- Menopause: Reduced hormone levels during menopause can affect the moisture levels in the mouth, leading to dry gums that are prone to infection and swelling.
- Contraceptives: Oral contraceptives that mimic hormonal changes can sometimes cause gums to swell.
Irritation from dental restorations or appliances
Dental interventions, though often necessary, can sometimes contribute to gum discomfort:
- Braces and Retainers: Orthodontic appliances, especially when first fitted, can cause irritation and slight swelling in the adjoining gum areas. It’s crucial to follow cleaning and care guidelines provided by orthodontists.
- III-fitting Crowns and Bridges: If dental restorations like crowns or bridges don’t fit correctly, they can cause persistent gum irritation leading to swelling.
- Dentures: Especially if they’re not fitting well, dentures can cause friction against the gums, leading to areas of swelling and soreness.
Read Next: Why Are My Gums White?
Home Remedies for Treating Swollen Gums
Many turn to home remedies as a first line of defence against swollen gums. Here are some commonly employed methods:
- Saltwater Rinse: A warm saltwater solution can help reduce bacteria and soothe inflamed gums. Rinse your mouth gently, ensuring not to swallow the mixture.
- Cold and Warm Compresses: Alternating between these can help alleviate pain. The cold reduces swelling, while warmth soothes discomfort.
- Tea Bags: Used tea bags, especially black or green tea, when cooled, can be placed on swollen gums. The tannic acid helps combat inflammation.
- Aloe Vera: Its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe gum swelling. Make sure to use pure aloe vera gel and rinse thoroughly after application.
While home remedies can offer relief, they are generally more effective for mild cases. Persistent or severe swelling usually requires more structured treatment for swollen gums; this may include over-the-counter products or, in some cases, a visit to the dentist for professional advice and intervention.
Over-the-Counter Products for Swollen Gums
Many individuals, after experiencing the discomfort of inflamed gums, often turn to the pharmacy aisle to seek relief. Several products have been specifically formulated to alleviate symptoms and tackle the underlying issues:
Simple to use, antimicrobial mouthwash is designed to reduce bacteria in the mouth, with Listerine and Corsodyl being popular choices. Regular use of these mouthwashes can help reduce and prevent inflammation, however, remember that prolonged use, especially without a dentist’s advice, may not always be beneficial.
Products like Bonjela or Orajel can be applied directly to the affected gum area, providing instant relief from pain and inflammation.
Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or paracetamol can help with pain management, but always read the label and ensure they don’t interfere with any other medications you might be taking.
Some toothpastes are specifically formulated for gum health. Using one that contains an antiseptic ingredient can help reduce bacteria and inflammation.
While not a medication, specialised dental floss products can be especially beneficial for those wondering how to treat swollen gums in the back of the mouth. Regular flossing removes trapped food particles and reduces the likelihood of inflammation.
Remember, while over-the-counter products can offer quick relief, they aren’t a long-term solution. If symptoms persist, it’s vital to consult with a dental professional to get to the root of the problem.
When to Visit a Dentist
Relying on home remedies and over-the-counter solutions can sometimes only mask underlying issues. Recognising when it’s time to turn to a professional is key:
- Persistent Swelling: If your gums remain swollen for over two weeks despite home treatments, it’s time to see a dentist.
- Painful Eating: Difficulty or significant discomfort while eating, especially when biting down, necessitates a dental visit.
- Loose Teeth: This could be a sign of advancing gum disease and requires immediate attention.
- Recurring Abscesses: Pus-filled pockets or abscesses on the gums can be a sign of infection, and a dental consultation is crucial.
- Other Symptoms: Symptoms like bad breath that doesn’t go away, a bad taste in the mouth, or gum recession are indicators that there might be a deeper issue at hand.
The Bottom Line
In some cases, swollen gums can be more than just a temporary nuisance, and can signal deeper health concerns and significantly impact daily life. Recognising the cause and seeking appropriate treatment, whether at home, over-the-counter, or with a trusted dental professional will ensure a brighter smile and healthier gums.