When we think of dental health, we usually think about the teeth, but the gums are just as important. You might have noticed lately that your gums look red and inflamed, or that they feel sore when you brush, floss, or eat. You might have even noticed some bleeding. If so, don’t panic!
Many Americans experience similar problems with their gums at some point, and soreness can usually be rectified with a few simple adjustments to your dental routine. However, sore gums can sometimes be a sign of an underlying problem like gum disease.
Let’s discuss the top ten causes of sore gums, what you can do about them, and when to make an appointment with your dentist.
- Brushing technique
If your brushing technique is a little on the aggressive side, then you might be irritating the soft tissue of your gums. Hold your toothbrush against your teeth and gum line at a 45-degree angle, rather than flat against them, and apply light pressure. Brush in a gentle, circular motion and avoid scrubbing back and forth.
- Toothbrush type
When it comes to brushing, tools are just as important as technique. Medium or hard bristles are too tough for most people and can leave the gums sore and inflamed. Instead, choose a toothbrush with soft, round-tipped bristles to minimize irritation.
Like brushing, flossing can irritate the gums if not done correctly — you’re using a very fine floss or a ‘sawing’ motion, for example. Choose a wide, ribbon-type floss and try gently sliding the floss back and forth between the teeth instead, taking care never to force the floss.
If you haven’t flossed in a while, you might notice some sensitivity and perhaps even light bleeding at first as your gums get accustomed to the pressure. This should ease as you get used to flossing, but if it remains uncomfortable or painful, or if bleeding is persistent or heavy, this could be a sign of gum disease. If this happens, book an appointment with your dentist.
- Poor dental hygiene
Your mouth is home to millions of bacteria that help to break down your food. If you don’t brush and floss away this bacteria every day, it combines with food particles, acid byproducts, and saliva to form plaque, a clear substance that adheres to your teeth.
Plaque accumulates and hardens over time, especially around the gum line, leading to soreness and irritation. A thorough, twice-daily brushing and flossing routine helps to keep plaque to a minimum, but you can also support your dental hygiene by limiting acidic or sugary food intake and refraining from smoking.
- Gum disease
Over time, plaque build-up leads to a condition called gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. This is the early stage of gum disease, and left untreated it develops into periodontitis. This serious infection causes gum recession, ligament weakness, bone damage, and eventually tooth loss.
The best way to prevent gum disease is to develop a good oral health routine, but this is not always enough. The earlier you catch gingivitis, the more chance you have of preventing periodontitis and the serious complications that come with it, so be sure to visit your dentist every six months for your regular check-up.
- Canker sores
Also known as mouth ulcers, canker sores can develop anywhere in the mouth, including the gums, appearing on their own or in clusters. They’re generally harmless and disappear by themselves, but you can ease the pain with numbing gels and rinses.
- Dental fixtures
Dental fixtures like dentures, braces, and retainers can take a little while to get used to. At first, you might notice some gum soreness and irritation, but this should subside over time. However, if the irritation doesn’t resolve itself, or if you suspect that your dental fixture is broken or fitted incorrectly, see your dentist or orthodontist to have it checked and adjusted if necessary.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 3000 toxic chemicals, most of which are known to be very irritating to the gums. Further, smoking causes bacteria imbalance, plaque build-up, and gum disease, which also contributes to gum soreness. If you’re a smoker, then kicking the habit, or at least cutting down, will go a long way towards easing painful gums.
One of the unfortunate side effects of chemotherapy treatment is stomatitis, or inflammation of the mouth. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy and finding that you develop sore gums, speak to your dentist about ways to minimize the discomfort during your treatment.
For women, gum health is significantly influenced by hormonal changes. During puberty, for example, increased blood flow to the gums can cause swelling and soreness. Some women notice that their gums swell, inflame, or bleed right before their period, while other women may experience this from around the second or third month of pregnancy. During menopause, women may find that their gums get dry, increasing soreness and bleeding.
All of these hormonal side effects are normal to an extent, but if the discomfort becomes unbearable, or you have any concerns about the cause or severity, speak to your dentist or physician for advice.
When to see a dentist
Improving your dental hygiene, changing your brushing/flossing technique, quitting smoking, and limiting sugary or acidic foods are all ways that you can ease painful gums by yourself. However, if your sore gums do not improve within a few weeks, if they’re particularly painful or sensitive, or if they’re accompanied by bleeding, it’s a good idea to see a dentist as soon as possible.
We can assess your gums to find the cause of any tenderness and advise you on ways to improve your dental hygiene. If necessary, we can clean and polish your teeth to remove plaque build-up, and we can offer treatment if you’re suffering from gingivitis or periodontitis. If you have braces or other dental fixtures, we can also ensure that they fit correctly and are in good working order.
Get relief from sore gums now
If your sore gums are bothering you, or if you suspect an underlying issue, book a dental appointment now. The expert team at Mountain Peak Dentistry can get to the root cause of your sore gums and help you to find relief. Contact us now on (303) 988-7800 to arrange an appointment.
About Mountain Peak Dentistry:
Mountain Peak Dentistry is the dental practice of leading dentist, Dr. Brennan Bonati. We’re proud to be recognized as the most trusted, reliable and compassionate dental practice in Lakewood, CO and the surrounding areas, providing comprehensive, restorative and cosmetic dentistry.