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Gums - swollen

Swollen gums are abnormally enlarged, bulging, or protruding.

Considerations

Gum swelling is common. It may involve one or many of the triangular-shaped bits of gum between teeth. These sections are called papillae.

Occasionally, the gums swell enough to block the teeth completely.

Causes

  • Gingivitis
  • Infection by a virus or fungus
  • Malnutrition
  • Poorly fitting dentures or other dental appliances
  • Pregnancy
  • Sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwash
  • Scurvy
  • Side effect of a drug such as Dilantin, phenobarbital, or calcium channel blockers

Home Care

Eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugary foods and drinks.

Avoid things that can irritate your gums such as mouthwashes, alcohol, and tobacco. Change your toothpaste brand and stop using mouthwashes if sensitivity to these dental products is causing your swollen gums.

Brush and floss your teeth regularly. See a periodontist or dentist at least every 6 months.

If your swollen gums are caused by a reaction to a drug, talk to your doctor about changing the type of medicine you use. Never stop taking a medicine without first talking to your doctor.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have any changes to your gums that last longer than 2 weeks.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The dentist will examine your mouth, teeth, and gums. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:

  • Do your gums bleed?
  • How long has the problem been going on, and has it changed over time?
  • How often do you brush your teeth and what kind of toothbrush do you use?
  • Do you use any other oral care products?
  • When was the last time you had a professional cleaning?
  • Have there been any changes to your diet? Do you take vitamins?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • Have you changed your oral home care recently, such as type of toothpaste or mouthwash you use?
  • Do you have any other symptoms such as breath odor, sore throat, or pain?

You may have blood tests such as such as a CBC or blood differential.

Your dentist or hygienist will show you how to care for your teeth and gums.

Alternative Names

Swollen gums; Gingival swelling

References

Amsterdam JT. Oral medicine. In Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2013:chap 70.

Kawar N, Gajendrareddy PK, Hart T. Periodontal disease for the primary care physician. Dis Mon. 2011;57(4):174-183.

Chow AW. Infections of the oral cavity, neck, and head. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 60.

Update Date: 2/25/2014

Updated by: Ilona Fotek, DMD, MS, Palm Beach Prosthodontics Dental Associates, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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