2. An Infection Could Be Developing
One of the most common infections that can cause gums to swell (especially in children), is called gingivostomatitis. This infection is usually the result of a viral or bacterial infection and is often accompanied by the appearance of oral canker sores.
While the body can generally fight off infection on its own, the discomfort itself may send you straight to your dentist’s chair. They will sanitize the infected area, and in most cases, prescribe an antibiotic.
3. Something is Really Lodged in Your teeth
If only one tooth or region of your mouth is swollen, this may be a sign that a food particle (commonly a pesky popcorn kernel) is trapped below the gum line. This causes the body to attempt to fight off the bacteria of the unwelcome food, resulting in the surrounding tissue to become inflamed.
If the inflammation goes from being a minor discomfort to significant pain check in with your dentist who should be able to hunt down the cause and eliminate it.
4. There Might Be a Vitamin Deficiency
Vitamin deficiencies aren’t as prevalent as they used to be, but we still see swollen gums resulting from malnutrition. This is especially common amongst older patients who may not be following a balanced diet.
Many vitamins play a role in good oral health. Insufficient levels of vitamins B and C generally result in swollen gums, with vitamin C being a key player in gum restoration. It can protect your gums from getting infected and swollen by any plaque that’s hidden under the gum.
Upping your vitamin K intake may also be helpful. If you lack vitamin K, your gums may swell and bleed easier when they come into contact with bacterial plaque and tartar.
5. A Medication Could Be Causing Side Effects
Some commonly prescribed medications can cause gum swelling as a side effect. This includes blood pressure drugs that contain calcium channel blockers, like verapamil and diltiazem. These medications can cause a buildup of gum tissue, resulting in a condition known as gingival overgrowth, where tissue actually grows over the teeth.
If you find that your gums are giving you trouble following the start of a new medication, get in touch with your dentist, who may know alternative treatments or modified dosages to regulate the gum’s reaction.
6. Are You Going Through Hormonal Changes
Women can experience swollen gums during unique periods in their life where there are hormonal changes, like during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and the use of birth control pills.
Hormones affect how your gum tissues react to the toxins released from the bacterial plaque and tartar. An uptick in the hormones estrogen and progesterone increases the chance of gum irritation and swelling caused by plaque.
If you’ve already got your brushing and flossing routine on lockdown and are on top of your teeth cleanings, yet swollen gums are still giving you trouble, consult with your doctor. They may recommend hormonal or vitamin therapy to help.
7. A New Toothpaste is Causing Irritation
The ingredients in toothpaste and mouthwash can irritate gum tissue and even cause allergic reactions. This is especially true with continued use (like when you don’t know it’s your oral care products causing the reaction).
Identifying that problem ingredient and removing it from your daily routine is often enough to help your gums heal up. Common ingredients that can cause pesky oral contact dermatitis include: hydrogen peroxide (common in teeth-whitening), alcohol (common in mouthwashes), baking soda (common in some toothpaste), and cinnamates (common in chewing gum).
8. A Crooked Tooth is Causing Trouble
Misalignment of teeth can affect how well you can access them and properly brush and floss to remove bacterial plaque. By realigning and straightening your teeth (whether with traditional braces, clear aligners, or porcelain veneers), you can gain better access to clean below the gums where plaque buildup is causing gum infections and swelling.
9. You’re Having Dental Device Issues
Poorly fitting dentures, or Invisalign-type teeth straighteners, can irritate the gums, leading to inflammation and secondary swelling. Removal of the device or having them properly fitted so they fit snugly (dentures) or don’t touch the gums (straighteners) can usually undo the damage and swelling.
10. There is an Underlying Health Condition
Swollen gums may be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as diabetes. Glucose is present in saliva, so when your blood sugar’s out of whack, the higher glucose levels in your saliva help bacteria to grow and can eventually lead to gum disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Another less common, but serious, cause of gum swelling and bleeding is leukemia (sometimes, in the form of a single swollen lump or completely swollen gums). The leukemia cells concentrate in the gums, making them puffy.
If the swelling persists, especially if it’s associated with other systemic signs like fevers, night sweats, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss, see your doctor right away for a blood test.