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6 Common Causes of Swollen Gums

by Purva Jagtap

Did you know that the human mouth harbors at least 700 types of microorganisms?

Many are “good” bacteria, helping with digestion and keeping bad bacteria under control. Unfortunately, it’s easy for bad bacteria to take over and wreak havoc on your oral health. When this happens, you’re likely to develop sore, inflamed gums.

To that end, we created this guide listing the common culprits behind swollen gums. Keep reading, as knowing what they are can give you a better idea of how to prevent gum inflammation.

1. Poor Oral Hygiene

The average American only spends 45 seconds brushing their teeth. However, experts say this isn’t enough to remove enough debris and plaque on the teeth. As such, they recommend brushing for at least 120 seconds, which may remove 26% more plaque.

You’d want to remove as much food debris and plaque as you can as they can lead to swollen gums. That’s because bacterial plaque, which also hardens into tartar, can irritate the gums. This irritation is one of the factors causing the gums to swell and bleed easily.

2. Gingivitis

In the medical world, the suffix “itis” refers to inflammation. Gingivae, on the other hand, is the Latin word for gums. So, the literal meaning of gingivitis is gum swelling or inflammation.

Poor brushing and flossing habits, in turn, are the most common causes of gingivitis. 

Moreover, gingivitis is the most prevalent form of gum disease in children. For instance, in developed nations, it affects almost three in four kids aged 6 to 11. In adolescents, the rate is between 50% and a staggering 99%.

3. Gum Disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the gingival tissues. This often occurs as a result of untreated gingivitis, but it causes more severe gum swelling. What’s more, advanced gum disease is usually no longer reversible, unlike gingivitis.

Of all forms of periodontal disease, periodontitis is the most advanced stage. In the US alone, it affects almost half of adults aged at least 30. Its prevalence also goes up in older people; more than two in three individuals 65 years or older have it.

4. Untreated Tooth Decay

Untreated tooth decay can result in dental abscesses, which are pockets of pus. In some cases, the infection affecting the tooth can spread to the gums. When this happens, the gums supporting the infected tooth can develop an abscess, too.

A gum abscess may look like a small red ball protruding from the infected gum. The middle section of the swelling may appear lighter than the surrounding area. However, the area around the ball looks far redder than the rest of the gums.

5. Ill-Fitting Oral Appliances

Over time, removable dentures can lose their snug fit and become loose or wobbly. In some cases, this improper fit can irritate the gums, resulting in inflammation.

If you’re using removable dentures, it may be time to consider getting dental implants. Tooth implants offer permanence, as these replacement tooth roots fuse with the bone. This fusion then allows implants to provide a more secure base for artificial teeth.

6. Denture Stomatitis

Speaking of dentures, another problem they can cause is denture stomatitis (DS). In fact, researchers say DS is so common it affects 30% to 70% of denture wearers.

DS, in turn, is one of the forms of gum infections caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. It causes gum swelling, bleeding, halitosis, and even a burning sensation in the mouth.

Don’t Let Inflamed Gums Cost You Your Teeth

Keep in mind that as many as 178 million people in the US have already lost at least one tooth. Many of these cases resulted from untreated gum disease and tooth decay.

So, seeing as inflamed gums can be a sign of gum disease or tooth decay, it’s something you should never ignore. Instead, visit your dentist ASAP, as your gum condition may still be reversible.

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