Swollen gums are often one of the first signs of periodontal or gum disease. More commonly known as gingivitis, periodontal disease is one of the leading infections suffered by Americans. According to data released by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, not brushing and flossing enough is the number one cause of gum disease of which swollen gums is an early symptom. The good news is that in most cases, swollen gums are preventable.
Swollen gums can be caused by a number of different factors, but an infection resulting from plaque build up on the teeth is the most common cause. The bacteria in the plaque trigger the accumulation of fluids and white blood cells in the area, causing the gums, or gingiva, to swell. Pregnant women, post-menopausal women, and adolescents going through puberty often experience swelling of the gums, likely due to changes in the body's hormone levels. Vitamin C, calcium, niacin and vitamin B deficiencies can also cause the gums to swell. Supplements, including vitamin D, and eating a nutritious diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables may be all that is needed to treat gingivitis caused by nutrient deficiency.
Gums can become swollen as the result of inflammation due to poor oral hygiene. Since sticky plaque at the base of the teeth is what causes the gums to swell, brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, particularly at bedtime, can help prevent plaque from forming. Proper tooth brushing technique involves moving the brush in small, circular motions. Eating and drinking from dishes, glasses and eating utensils, which have not been properly washed and sterilised also transmit the bacteria that can cause gum disease.
Massaging swollen gums with a mixture of table salt or baking soda and a pinch of turmeric can help to relieve soreness often associated with swollen gums. Use your finger or a clean cotton swab to massage the gums at least twice each day to increase blood circulation to the area. Gargling with a solution of warm water and about ¼ teaspoon of salt is probably one of the most common home remedies for treating swollen gums. You should gargle several times throughout the day for temporary relief. Some dentists recommend gargling with a solution of half water and half 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide to kill harmful bacteria in the mouth and reduce swelling. Always rinse your mouth thoroughly after gargling. You can also rub the rind of a lime on the gums or add 1 tsp of sea salt to an 236ml glass of freshly squeezed lime juice diluted in water and drink. Another popular remedy is to apply a few drops of clove oil to the gums with a clean cotton swab.
Soothe swollen, aching gums by rinsing with a mouthwash that contains essential oils in the ingredients. Echinacea, peppermint oil and chamomile tincture have anti-inflammatory properties that prevent the growth of bacteria in the mouth. One more option is to purchase toothpaste with zinc and the herb bloodroot. The alkaloids in the bloodroot help to decrease plaque formation, thereby fighting the bacteria that cause gum disease. You can also brush your teeth with baking soda, which is easier on gum tissue than the chemicals found in most commercial toothpastes. Drinking green tea is another soothing remedy for swollen gums. Compounds found in the herb may lead to less plaque formation.
Taking certain medications can cause the gums to swell. Drugs used to treat cancer, arthritis and other conditions that affect a person's autoimmune system affect the pH of saliva in the mouth, encouraging bacteria to grow. Anticonvulsant medications, antidepressants and drugs used to treat some heart conditions can increase the risk of gum disease as well. Once these drugs are discontinued, the swelling usually diminishes. Smokers and individuals who use other tobacco products are also more likely to develop gum disease, as are people with diabetes who have a greater chance of developing any type of infection. Treatment of underlying medical conditions should prevent or slow the progression of related gum disease.
The same bacteria responsible for the infection that causes the gums to swell can travel from the mouth to the lining of the heart by way of the bloodstream. If an inflammation known as endocarditis results, the condition can be life-threatening. Some studies also suggest a link between gum disease and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.