Why Are My Gums Swollen? Causes & Treatment for Inflamed Gums

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Gum swelling, or the painful irritation of your gum tissue, is a common condition with a wide variety of causes. Although the condition can be painful, swollen gums should not cause a great deal of alarm and they can usually be treated quickly and effectively by a dentist. If left untreated, however, the condition can become serious.

swollen gums


Signs of swollen gums usually include:

  • Red and tender gum tissue
  • Gums that are sensitive to the touch
  • Bleeding of the gums when brushing, flossing, or after eating hard food
  • Mouth sores on or near the gum-line
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Gum tissue receding from the teeth


According to the American Academy of Periodontology, the leading cause of gum swelling or inflammation is a build-up of plaque. To avoid plaque build-up, it is important to visit your dentist for a routine teeth cleaning at least twice per year. Additional factors such as diet, stress level, weight, tobacco use, and advanced age can also increase your risk of developing swollen gums. 

Below are some common causes of gum swelling:

Gum Disease (Gingivitis or Periodontitis):
Gum disease is the primary cause of swollen gums and is often the result of poor dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing improperly, irregularly, or not at all can lead to gingivitis. Be sure to receive regular oral health check-ups from your dentist, as gingivitis can lead to other serious diseases.

Switching Toothpaste Brands:
Using a new brand of toothpaste could cause an allergic reaction and lead to swollen gums. If you recently switched toothpaste brands and notice irritation or pain in your gums, check the ingredient label to compare the brands for new ingredients.

Starting a New Medication or Treatment:
If you recently started taking a new medication and began seeing signs of swollen gums, consult your doctor about potential side effects. Additionally, treatments such as chemotherapy can put significant stress on the body that might result in swollen gums.

Poor Nutrition:
A lack of vitamin C can cause inflammation of the gums. If your diet does not include foods high in vitamin C and you begin to show signs of swollen gums, consider adding them into your diet in higher quantities. Kale, kiwi, cherries, broccoli, and citrus fruits are all rich in vitamin C.

A direct impact to the mouth can cause swelling or bleeding of the gums. This can also be triggered by the introduction of dental appliances such as braces, retainers, or dentures. The body will usually adapt to these appliances over time, but they can result in some swelling or discomfort in the short term.

Swollen or inflamed gums are common during pregnancy. This is caused by hormonal changes in the body that affect the way it reacts to bacteria. This can cause plaque to build up more easily and trigger inflammation of the gums.


The most important thing to do in the event of swollen gums or any other type of oral health issue is to contact your dentist to schedule an appointment. In the meantime, there are a variety of treatment techniques to alleviate pain at home while waiting for your appointment.

  • Brush and floss at least twice per day, using a soft-bristled toothbrush for best results
  • Improve your diet to include foods high in vitamin C
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate pain and reduce swelling with guidance from a dentist
  • Rinse your mouth regularly with saltwater
  • Eat cold foods that are soft and easy to chew
  • Regularly consult your dentist about professional cleanings

You should avoid:

  • Brushing too hard or aggressively
  • Smoking or using tobacco products
  • Putting any additional irritants into your mouth including harsh mouthwashes or certain toothpaste brands with ingredients that may cause irritation


The best way to prevent swelling of the gums is to take care of your mouth. This includes brushing and flossing at least twice per day along with rinsing your mouth with a mouthwash. Remember to brush gently using a soft and slow circular motion over your teeth for the best results. Additionally, monitor your diet and ensure you are eating foods rich in vitamin C. 

Over time, plaque can harden to become tartar, which even with an excellent oral care routine, requires professional cleaning to remove. We recommend seeing your dentist at least twice per year to prevent tartar buildup that can lead to swollen gums and a range of other issues.

As you can see, swollen gums can be caused by a variety of factors. To prevent gum disease and other ailments, be sure to see your dentist on a regular basis and practice consistent oral health habits.