Swollen Gums Caused By Infection - What To Do

If you have swollen gums, you probably have a gum infection. This is by far the most common cause of gum swellings. But it's important to realize that you don't "catch" a gum infection.

You can't get it from drinking out of someone else's cup, or by kissing. Diseases that are transmitted in that way do not normally result in a gum swelling, or else are very rare.

If you have swollen gums, there will be one of 3 possible appearances. You will need to look carefully. Open your mouth halfway, let your cheek relax, and pull your cheek to the side slightly with one finger. You will probably see one of 3 things.

Here's a list:

  • Your gums are swollen at the front, especially the lower front teeth.
  • Your gum might be swollen at the very back, around the last tooth, making it difficult to close your teeth.
  • Or your gum is swollen in one area only. If you look closely, you might be able to see if it is swollen very close to the gum edge where the gum meets the tooth, OR if it is swollen away from the gum edge, more over where the roots of the tooth would be.

Swollen gums

Next, you should see if your gums bleed when you gently brush your teeth.

Finally, ask yourself - do you use dental floss at all? Like more than twice a week?

The answers to these questions will let you make an educated guess as to the cause of your swollen gums, and what you can do about it.

Like I said at the top of this page, pretty much ALL cases of swollen gums will be caused by a gum infection. BUT how you fix the problem depends on the CAUSE of the infection. That means - "where's the infection coming from?"

The one I see almost every day is a simple gum infection due to dental plaque bacteria building up on your teeth and in between your teeth. If your gums bleed when you use a toothbrush, and you don't ever floss your teeth, this is probably what's happened.

The cure for this is to get the plaque bacteria off your teeth ! It's that simple. Just get rid of the plaque bacteria and things will settle down.

If your gums are very painful to brush, you will have to tackle this in two steps:

  • First, go out to a pharmacy or chemist's store and buy a mouthwash that contains Chlorhexidine Gluconate. In different countries around the world this will have different names, such as Corsodyl or Chlorhexamed, for example.

    Mouthwash

    Normally, I don't like mouthwashes because most of them don't do anything, and they make people think they can brush less and floss less because they are using some fancy-pants mouthwash.

    BUT this is a special case. This only works with a Chlorhexidine-containing mouthwash, AND you are only going to use it for 5 days. That's right, only FIVE days! Why so short?

    Because 5 days is more than enough time for the chlorhexidine to do it's job, and any longer than that can cause heavy staining to build up on your teeth.

    The chlorhexidine mouthwash will kill the bacteria causing the gum infection, and allow your swollen gums to heal up and shrink back to their normal size. But that's when the real work starts, if you want to prevent getting swollen gums again!

  • Now you have to change the way you brush your teeth. The old way obviously wasn't good enough, or else you wouldn't have got the problem in the first place.

    My first tip is to get a good quality brush. The one I recommend for people living in the U.S.A. is a sonic care toothbrush called the Cybersonic 3. Don't worry, it's not expensive - about $40 if you get it direct from Amden's website.

    If you live outside the U.S.A., then I recommend either the Oral B Sonic toothbrush, (also called the Pulsonic), OR, if money's no object, the top-of-the-line brush from Sonicare, the DiamondClean. You can read a review of these three brushes at my Best electric toothbrush review page.

  • Next, you have to use the brush correctly! I have written precise instructions on what to do at How to cure gum disease. Follow those instructions to the letter! I also explain how to floss between your teeth correctly.

    If you use the mouthwash and change your brush (and how you use it), your swollen gums should shrink back down to their normal size and stay that way.

    But I recommend getting a dentist to check your gums - you may also have a build-up of hard tartar on your teeth that a dental hygienist can gently remove for you. She can also check your toothbrushing, and show you where you might still be missing with the brush!


Now the other two causes of swollen gums;

The next type of gum swelling is where you get a small, well-defined lump at the gum edge where it meets the tooth, or very close to it. This is usually caused by a gum infection under the gum, and it's a type of abscess.

For this, you should go along to a dentists' office. He will take an X-ray to confirm what's happening, and probably give you some tooth abscess antibiotics to settle the gum infection down. Then you will need to see the dental hygienist to get your gum checked and measured. If the tooth next to the swollen gum is very loose, you may need to have it removed.

It's also possible that your swollen gums are caused by a gum infection coming from a dead tooth. If this is the case, you will either need a root canal procedure or get the tooth pulled.

The final cause of swollen gums is where the swelling is at the very back of your mouth, behind the last tooth. It can be difficult to close your teeth together. This is probably down to wisdom teeth infection, a particular type of gum infection that occurs around a wisdom tooth.

Again, there's not much you can do at home about this, you really need to see a dentist. This situation also usually requires antibiotics at first, followed by a careful assessment of whether the gum infection is likely to come back again or not. If the tooth is tilted (or "impacted"), you may need to have it removed.

These are the most common causes of swollen gums that I see in my office. All these are due to a gum infection of one sort or another, but the source of the infection is different in each case, and so needs different treatment.