What Causes Gums to Swell?

Gum swelling, also known as gingival swelling or gum inflammation, can be caused by a variety of factors, including both oral and systemic (body-wide) conditions. Common causes of gum swelling include:

  • Gum disease (periodontal disease): This is one of the most common causes of gum swelling. Gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, is characterized by redness, inflammation, and swelling of the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease that can cause further gum inflammation, gum recession, and even tooth loss.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Inadequate or improper brushing and flossing can lead to the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth and gums. This can irritate and inflame the gums, leading to swelling.
  • Infection: Gum infections can be caused by bacteria or viruses and may result in localized or generalized gum swelling. Common examples include gum abscesses and viral infections like herpetic stomatitis.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those during pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause, can make the gums more sensitive and prone to swelling.
  • Medications: Some medications can lead to gum swelling as a side effect. Common culprits include certain antihypertensive drugs, antiseizure medications, and immunosuppressants.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: A lack of essential nutrients, such as vitamin C (leading to scurvy) or vitamin K, can result in gum inflammation and swelling.
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to foods, medications, or oral hygiene products can lead to gum swelling, along with other symptoms like itching and redness.
  • Irritation or trauma: Physical trauma to the gums, such as aggressive brushing, dental procedures, or the use of sharp or abrasive objects, can cause temporary gum swelling.
  • Smoking or tobacco use: Smoking and the use of other tobacco products can lead to gum inflammation, decreased blood flow to the gums, and a higher risk of gum disease.
  • Systemic health conditions: Certain systemic diseases, such as diabetes and immune system disorders, can affect gum health and lead to gum swelling.
  • Autoimmune disorders: Conditions like lupus or lichen planus can lead to chronic inflammation and swelling of the gums.
  • Dental appliances: Ill-fitting dentures, braces, or other dental appliances can irritate the gums, leading to localized swelling.
  • Oral cancer: In some cases, oral cancer can manifest as gum swelling, so it’s important to have any persistent or unusual gum changes evaluated by a dentist.

If you experience gum swelling, it’s important to consult with a dentist or periodontist for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Treatment may include improved oral hygiene, professional dental cleanings, and addressing underlying causes or contributing factors. In some cases, gum swelling may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, so prompt evaluation is essential for maintaining oral health.