Are swollen gums a bad sign?

A toothache or cracked teeth are a clear sign of trouble. Swollen gums, however, may “only” feel uncomfortable – sometimes not even that painful. So are they “worth” a trip to the dentist?

But swollen gums are never normal or healthy. Swollen or inflamed gums often bleed and appear bright red. If you see red, puffy gums when you inspect your mouth, do not assume they will get better on their own. 

The name for gum inflammation is gingivitis. When this inflammation becomes severe, we call it periodontal disease.  Swollen gums often appear puffy, enlarged, or larger than usual. You may notice that the gums extend further along the teeth, covering more surface area.

Discoloration is also a common symptom. Your gums may appear redder than usual, exhibiting a darker or brighter hue compared to healthy gums.

In other cases you may simply notice  tenderness and sensitivity to touch. You may experience discomfort or pain when brushing, flossing, or biting down on certain foods.

Swollen gums are more prone to bleeding, particularly during brushing, flossing, or when pressure is applied. You may notice pink or red traces on your toothbrush, floss, or in the sink after rinsing.

Swollen gums can also contribute to bad breath or a persistent unpleasant taste in the mouth. This is often due to the accumulation of bacteria and food debris in the gum pockets. If an infection is present, you may observe the formation of pus around the gumline or experience a foul taste in your mouth.

In some cases, swollen gums may start to recede, exposing the roots of the teeth. This can make the teeth appear longer and lead to increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.

What are the underlying problems of swollen gums?

Swollen gums, also known as gingival swelling, can have various underlying causes. It is essential to identify the specific reason behind the swelling to determine the appropriate treatment. Here are some common underlying reasons for swollen gums:

Gum Disease (Gingivitis and Periodontitis):

The most common cause of swollen gums is gum disease. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease and is characterized by inflamed, tender, and swollen gums. If left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease that can lead to gum recession and potential tooth loss.

Poor Oral Hygiene:

Inadequate oral hygiene practices, such as infrequent or improper brushing and flossing, can lead to plaque buildup along the gumline. Plaque contains bacteria that can irritate the gums, causing inflammation and swelling.

Hormonal Changes:

Hormonal fluctuations, such as those occurring during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, can make the gums more sensitive and prone to swelling. This condition is often referred to as pregnancy gingivitis or hormonal gingivitis.


Some medications, such as certain anticonvulsants, immunosuppressants, and calcium channel blockers, may cause gum swelling as a side effect. If you suspect your medication is contributing to swollen gums, consult with your healthcare provider.


Infections in the gums, such as gum abscesses or oral herpes, can cause localized swelling and discomfort. These infections may be accompanied by other symptoms like pain, pus discharge, or fever.

Trauma or Injury:

Accidental trauma or injury to the gums, such as vigorous brushing, dental procedures, or oral piercing, can result in swelling and inflammation.

Nutritional Deficiencies:

Poor nutrition, specifically deficiencies in vitamin C or vitamin B complex, can affect gum health and contribute to swollen gums.

Systemic Conditions:

Certain systemic conditions like diabetes, leukemia, or autoimmune disorders can affect gum health and lead to gum swelling.

What Dr. Wheatley can do to address swollen gums?

While there are some home remedies that may calm down your irritated gums, your dentist or periodontist can provide many professional treatment options to address swollen gums, depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. 

  1. Dental Cleaning and Root Planing: A dentist or dental hygienist can perform a professional dental cleaning, known as scaling and root planing, to remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria from the gumline and tooth surfaces. This procedure helps reduce inflammation and promote gum health.
  2. Gum Disease Treatment: If gum disease, such as gingivitis or periodontitis, is causing the swollen gums, the dentist may recommend additional treatments. These can include localized antibiotic therapy, antimicrobial mouth rinses, or prescription medications to control bacterial infection and reduce inflammation.
  3. Dental Restoration Adjustment: Swollen gums can occur due to improper dental restorations, such as crowns or fillings, that create food traps or irritate the gums. The dentist can adjust or replace these restorations to improve the gum\’s health and eliminate the source of irritation.
  4. Gum Surgery: In advanced cases of gum disease or if the swelling persists despite non-surgical treatments, gum surgery may be necessary. Procedures such as gum flap surgery, gum grafting, or pocket reduction surgery can be performed to eliminate deep gum pockets, repair damaged gum tissue, and promote gum healing.
  5. Orthodontic Treatment: In some cases, misalignment of teeth can contribute to swollen gums. The dentist or orthodontist may recommend orthodontic treatment, such as braces or aligners, to correct the tooth position and alleviate gum issues caused by overcrowding or malocclusion.
  6. Ongoing Maintenance and Follow-up: After treatment, we may recommend regular follow-up appointments to monitor the gum health, perform professional cleanings, and provide ongoing care and guidance to maintain healthy gums.

If you are experiencing swollen gums, we recommend to schedule a checkup with your dentist. We can perform a thorough examination, identify the underlying cause, and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include professional dental cleaning, improved oral hygiene practices, medication, or specialized gum disease treatment. Maintaining good oral hygiene, regular dental visits, and a healthy lifestyle can help prevent and manage gum swelling.

If you want to maintain your smile, talk to Dr. Wheatley for an evaluation and treatment plan. Contact us today! We create smiles to be proud of.