What are swollen gums?

Gum swelling results from excess fluid (edema) in the soft tissues of the gums and may be accompanied by redness, pain, sores, ulcers and bleeding. Poor oral hygiene, resulting in inflammation or infection, is the most common cause of swollen gums. The symptoms may be constant or variable and may worsen when eating or drinking. If gum pain is present, it may be described as sharp, dull, stabbing, burning or throbbing, ranging in intensity from mild to severe.

Depending on the cause, swollen gums may be present in only a small part of a gum (sore or ulcer), or at the gum line (gingivitis and periodontitis). Other conditions may produce swelling in the entire area of the gums. Gingivitis and other types of inflammatory conditions are among the most common causes of swollen gums.

Vitamin deficiencies, such as vitamin C deficiency, which causes scurvy, and iron deficiency anemia, can be associated with symptoms that involve both the mouth and the gums. Rare disorders of the immune system, such as human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) or Behcet’s syndrome (disease characterized by widespread inflammation of blood vessels), can also produce symptoms in the mouth and gums. Infections of the skin and soft tissue (cellulitis) or bone (osteomyelitis) are further causes of swollen gums.

The duration and course of swollen gums vary widely, depending on the cause. Symptoms caused by inflammation often have a sudden onset. In other cases, swollen gums resulting from underlying vitamin deficiencies or chronic conditions develop slowly and persist or worsen over time.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), severe pain, or difficulty swallowing or breathing. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for swollen gums but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with swollen gums?

Swollen gums may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorders or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the gums may also involve other body systems.... Read more about swollen gumssymptoms

CAUSES

What causes swollen gums?

Swollen gums are caused by multiple factors that result in inflammation of the gums. Inflammation due to plaque on the teeth is responsible for many cases of swollen gums. Plaque is an invisible, sticky film composed mainly of bacteria, which results in irritation of the gum line, swelling and bleeding. For this reason, swollen gums occur most frequently in people that do not practice good oral hygiene.... Read more about swollen gumscauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health