Gum pain can often be a temporary symptom, but at other times a person may require dental treatment to prevent further health complications. This article discusses some of the possible causes of gum pain. We also cover quick gum pain relief, home remedies, prevention, and when to see an emergency dentist.
Causes of gum pain
Gum pain can range from simple irritation to severe and debilitating one. Some potential causes of gum pain include:
- Canker sores: These are small, painful ulcers that can occur on the gums. Causes of canker sores include emotional stress, mouth injuries, an impaired immune system, or other underlying health conditions.
- Cuts or lacerations: Food and objects that enter the mouth can sometimes cause minor cuts or injuries to the gums and teeth. A person may also accidentally bite down on the gums, which can sometimes cause pain and bleeding.
- Gum disease: Also known as gingivitis, this condition occurs when bacteria build up under the gums and cause inflammation and bleeding. Without treatment, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis and lead to loose teeth. People who smoke are at a higher risk for gum disease than nonsmokers.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations, especially during pregnancy, can cause a person to experience swelling, pain, and bleeding in the gums.
- Improper flossing or brushing techniques: Brushing or flossing too vigorously or frequently can sometimes cause the gums to bleed and be painful.
- Sinusitis: A bacterial or viral infection in the sinuses can cause swelling of the sinus cavity. Some people with sinusitis also experience gum pain and toothache.
- Tooth abscess: A bacterial infection in the root of a tooth can cause an abscess or pus-filled sac. Tooth abscesses can lead to gum swelling and pain. They can also be serious and spread to other parts of the body, so it is essential to see a dentist quickly.
If you notice any of these symptoms along with gum pain, consult an emergency dentist to confirm the diagnosis and get treatment recommendations. Regardless of where your gum pain is located or its cause, chances are you’ll want to address it quickly.
Quick gum pain relief?
If your only symptom is gum pain, try these treatments at home:
Warm 1 cup of water on the stove (not to boiling — just warm) and pour into a cool glass. Add 1 tsp. salt to the warm water and mix well.
Swish the mixture in your mouth, then spit it into a sink when finished (don’t swallow).
The salt will help prevent the growth of bacteria in your mouth and decrease the bacteria on your gums, which may be causing the swelling.
Rinse your mouth with warm salt water at least twice daily until the swelling subsides.
Try either a hot or cold compress to help reduce pain.
For a hot compress:
Heat water to a tolerable temperature (not boiling). Soak a clean cloth in hot water and squeeze out the excess.
Gently press the warm, damp cloth to your face near the area where your gum pain occurs (not directly to your gums).
For a cold compress:
Wrap an ice pack in a clean cloth and apply it the same way as above.
Use either method until your pain subsides, or alternate between hot and cold until any swelling and inflammation die down.
You can turn certain herbs and spices into home remedies for gum inflammation and pain. Clove powder is an analgesic (pain-relieving) herb. They have been used as alternative oral pain relievers for a long time. An anti-inflammatory powdered herb like turmeric may also help.
- To use this treatment, mix the powdered herb of choice with a little warm water until you have a paste.
- Apply the paste directly to your gums until the pain subsides, and then rinse your mouth with water.
- Apply as often as needed.
Homemade dental spray
Dilute essential oils into a spray. For this treatment, use a small clean spray bottle that has never had any other product.
Fill the bottle with water, and add about five drops of essential oils of choice per ounce of carrier oil. Shake and spray lightly on your gums as needed.
Never let essential oils touch the skin without being diluted in a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil. Also, never swallow essential oils. Swish with water after and spit it out.
Oils like peppermint, oregano, and clove have natural pain-relieving, inflammation-reducing, and circulation-boosting properties.
Take a fresh bag of tea and steep it in boiling water for up to 5 minutes, as you do to make tea. When the tea bag is cool enough to touch, apply it directly to painful gums for at least 5 minutes.
Choose a tea high in astringent tannins, such as black tea, green tea, or even hibiscus tea. Or choose a tea that contains an anti-inflammatory herb — ginger and chamomile are popular examples.
The anti-inflammatory herbs will soothe, while the tannins absorb anything irritating the gums.
Shop now for black, green, hibiscus, ginger, or chamomile tea.
Oral anesthetic gels
Medicated oral gels are available on the market. These contain natural and synthetic compounds that help numb and treat gum pain. Some even include pain-numbing compounds from botanicals like clove.
Common over-the-counter brands include Orajel and Anbesol. Follow the instructions on the packaging.
Over-the-counter pain killers
Simple common painkillers and NSAIDs, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil), can help in a pinch.
If pain is stubborn and the topical methods above (or others) aren’t working, give these options a try. You can use them on their own or in addition to topical home treatments.
When to see a professional
Gum pain is often an isolated incident that can be easily treated or relieved.
In certain instances, gum pain can be a symptom of a bigger oral health issue. See your doctor or emergency dentist if your gum pain:
- is persistent or intense
- is accompanied by bleeding, redness, and inflammation
- causes pain when you chew
- loosens teeth
- recedes/pulls back from teeth, exposing the tooth roots and causing sensitivity
- interferes with eating or sleeping
- is accompanied by other symptoms
Gum pain can also be a sign of other oral problems, such as:
- Thrush. This oral yeast infection may include gum pain as a symptom. Talk to your doctor if you have gum pain as well as a yellowish coating on your mouth, throat, or inside of your cheeks — it may be thrush.
- Gingivitis. This gum disease is characterised by swollen, painful gums that bleed easily. Go to your dentist if you have had red, swollen, bleeding, and sore gums for over a week.
- Periodontal disease or periodontitis. This condition follows untreated gingivitis. Head to your dentist as soon as possible if you’re experiencing gum pain on top of red, swollen gums; gum bleeding; receding gums; tooth loss; and abscesses.
If you have no other symptoms besides gum pain, try being gentler when brushing or flossing your teeth.
Gum problem prevention
Good oral hygiene can help prevent gum pain and other dental issues. This includes:
- brushing teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste for at least 2 minutes
- flossing once daily
- using dental mouthwash daily
- having regular checkups with a dentist, such as every six months
If a person stops smoking, this can also improve gum health. Smoking can reduce blood flow to the gums, which may impair healing and lead to discomfort.
If you are experiencing gum pain, please call us right away. Our team of emergency dentists can help diagnose the cause of your pain and provide quick relief. In some cases, we may also recommend home remedies or treatment to help manage your gum health. If the pain is severe or persists for an extended period of time, please see an emergency dentist.