Although many people practice dental care primarily to prevent cavities, taking care of your gums is essential to oral — and general — health. Swollen gums are somewhat normal, and for most people, they come and go. If they linger, though, they can be a sign of underlying gum disease or another health issue.

If you end up with painfully inflamed gums for more than a couple of days, at-home treatments exist, but a visit to the dentist is often necessary to ensure there is no serious issue.


Gingivitis is a mild and common form of gum disease. It causes gum swelling, redness, and irritation around the base of the teeth.

Gingivitis is caused by plaque and tartar buildup that results from poor oral hygiene. The longer plaque and tartar remain on the teeth, the more irritated the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more severe problems.

man indicating his swollen gums from gingivitis


Periodontal Disease

Peridontal disease results when gingivitis is left untreated. This gum disease damages the soft tissue, eventually causing pockets to form between the gums and teeth. As these pockets get bigger or more widespread, they fill with bacteria.

Eventually, this bacterial infection can spread to the bone and lead to tooth loss, and the ongoing inflammation can cause systemic health problems.

tooth model with periodontal disease sign


Dentures or Dental Appliances

Dentures and other dental appliances can also cause swollen gums, especially new ones. Sometimes, a temporary adjustment period causes pain and swelling, but often, when dentures are cutting into your gums, you may need to see your dentist for a readjustment.

If your dentures are causing swelling, remove them and allow your gums to heal before using them again.

woman with a dental retainer



Pregnancy gingivitis is caused by an increase in progesterone and estrogen. Doctors are not sure why, but they believe this type of swollen gums might result from increased blood flow to the gums or a decreased ability to fight off bacteria.

Other symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis are redness, tenderness, and shiny gums.

pregnant woman with a sore mouth swollen gums


Scurvy and Other Vitamin Deficiencies

Many vitamin deficiencies can result in swollen gums, specifically scurvy, which appears after eight to 12 weeks of vitamin C deficiency.

Early symptoms of scurvy include loss of appetite and irritability, but it can also lead to lost teeth. Deficiencies in vitamins A, D, and B can also lead to swollen gums.

vitamin deficiency on a medical notepad



Many medications can cause dry mouth, which leads to irritated and swollen gums, but some drugs can directly affect the gums.

Gingival enlargement is when the gums swell and grow over the teeth. The gums are usually firm, pale pink, and do not bleed. Calcium channel blockers and anticonvulsants can cause this symptom.

woman taking medication orally with water


Sensitivity to Toothpaste

Another cause of swollen gums is toothpaste allergy. Many ingredients can cause an allergy to toothpaste, including fragrances, flavoring, fluoride, and gluten.

In addition to swollen gums, a toothpaste allergy can cause chapped lips, tongue irritation, and a rash around the mouth. These symptoms will likely improve after switching to a new toothpaste.

man having gum pain while brushing his teeth



Food getting stuck in the gums is a common cause of temporarily swollen gums. If the food remains stuck between the gum and the tooth, it will eventually break down and cause a buildup of bacteria.

In addition to cavities forming around the tooth, this buildup leads to inflammation and can cause a tooth abscess.

woman with sore mouth while eating a popsicle


How to Treat Swollen Gums

Treating swollen gums depends on the cause. If you notice that your gums are inflamed, see your dentist for a proper diagnosis. You may need a deep cleaning, changes to your oral hygiene routine, or antibiotics to treat an infection.

In severe cases, your dentist may perform a scaling and root planing; this non-surgical procedure quickly and easily removes plaque and bacteria from teeth and under the gum line.

dentist examining a patient's teeth


Caring for Swollen Gums

To prevent swollen gums, the best thing you can do is prioritize your oral hygiene. Brush and floss your teeth for at least two minutes twice daily, using circular brushing techniques with light pressure.

Eat a well-balanced diet to avoid vitamin deficiencies. When you experience swollen gums, do a saltwater rinse by mixing a teaspoon of salt into warm water and swishing it in your mouth for a minute.

woman rinsing her mouth with salt water


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