Swollen Gums? Causes And Cures

Jump to Section

The International Journal of Dental Clinics is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links.

Are you dealing with swollen gums? 

This article is going to teach you everything you ought to know about what causes swollen or irritated gums, as well as what you can do to soothe and alleviate the swelling. You will also find a section on how to prevent gum swelling in the first place, because as is so often the case with dental health issues, prevention is the best cure.

Without further ado, let us get right to it.

Reasons why you are experiencing swollen gums

Swollen and inflamed gums can be not only painful but also hugely disruptive to your daily life. When your gums are swollen, everything from speaking to eating to simply drinking plain water can become a painful obstacle.

There are all sorts of underlying reasons that can make your gums swell. In this section of the article, we are going to cover the most common causes.

Poor dental health

If your gums are swollen and irritated, poor oral hygiene is the most likely culprit. Staying on top of your oral hygiene is the key to your oral health, and when something is awry – whether we are talking tooth decay, gum disease or merely gum inflammation, a lack of good oral hygiene is typically the reason.

If you are not taking proper care of your teeth and gums, plaque and tartar will inevitably build up both around and between your teeth. This is bound to generate oral health issues, including gum swelling and gum disease. The latter brings with it all sorts of unpleasant symptoms, including gum recession, tooth decay and tooth loss. 

The good news here is that your oral health and hygiene is something you can take charge of to prevent gum pain and inflammation. To improve your dental health, you may need to switch to a better toothbrush, start brushing and flossing more often (According to the American Dental Association, you should always brush twice a day and floss once a day), and reduce sugars and acids in your diet.

If you have sore and swollen gums, consider it a wake-up call, a call to arms, a sign telling you it is time to take your oral health much more seriously.

Gum disease

Inflamed gums are very often an early warning sign of gum disease, also known as gingivitis.

Gingival swelling (swollen gums) is just one of many symptoms of early-stage gum disease. Other symptoms include redness, tenderness and bleeding, particularly while brushing.

Gum disease can both be painful and take a while to heal – which is why it is always best to do what you can to prevent it from developing in the first place. To stop gum disease in its tracks and prevent gum damage and potential tooth loss, it is important to take gum disease extremely seriously and to reach out to a dental professional for treatment.

It is true that gum disease usually clears up within a ten to fourteen day timeframe, but you should’t rely on that happening.


In some cases, swollen and irritated gums can be an indication of an underlying infection. 

Gum infections often come down to the same root cause as so many other dental and gingival problems: Poor oral hygiene. In some cases, however, gum infection can occur as a result of hormonal changes (for example during pregnancy), crooked teeth, diabetes or other underlying health conditions. 

Much like gum disease, gum infections tend to go down on their own, but only if you really keep on top of your oral and particularly your gum health. The best way to do this is with regular yet gentle brushing, flossing and saltwater rinsing.

Tooth abscess

Sometimes, having a tooth abscess can lead to gum swelling and redness. 

A tooth abscess is a build-up of pus inside the tooth. What will alert you to the presence of the abscess is usually an insistent throbbing pain in the tooth and/or the surrounding gum tissue. In some cases, a tooth abscess can be painless and therefore take longer to spot. In these cases, the things to watch out for are your gums becoming inflamed, irritated, or starting to recede. 

Poorly fitting dentures or braces

Dentures and clear braces can be both useful and necessary, but it is extremey important that they fit properly in your mouth. If not, they can do at least as much harm as they do good.

If your dentures or clear aligners are ill-fitting, they can cut into your gums and cause redness, tenderness, bleeding and inflammation.

How to get your swollen gums to go down

If you notice that you have sore and inflamed gums, you should contact your dentist as soon as possible. Only a dental professional will be able to assess and determine precisely what has caused your gums to swell, and suggest the best course of treatment.

Depending on what the underlying reason is, your dentist may suggest a number of different solutions, which could include professional deep cleaning, antibiotics to take care of the swelling, and/or changes to your oral hygiene routine. And if there is a specific issue causing the inflammation, such as ill-fitting dentures or a tooth abscess, your dentist is going to take care of this issue before proceeding with any other treatment.

If poor oral hygiene over time to blame for your swollen gums, your dentist may recommend scaling and root planing, a thorough form of professional teeth and gum cleaning. Scaling and root planing is uncomfortable but usually pain-free. The dentist or oral hygienist uses a special tool to remove all of the plaque and tartar from your gums, including your gum pockets where your own regular toothbrush cannot reach.

If you are worried about potential scaling and root planing risks, read our article covering them here.

In addition to addressing the immediate issue, your dentist is also likely to advice you on how you can take better care of your gum health in order to avoid swollen gums and worse from reoccurring. The best suggestions include:

How to prevent swollen gums

If your inflamed gums are caused by oral hygiene standards that leave something to be desired, here are a few dental health tips to help you take better care of your teeth and gums from now on.

Prioritise your oral hygiene

First things first. Good oral health habits are the foundation for great oral health.

According to the American Dental Association you should floss once and brush your teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes each time. In the morning after you wake up and in the evening before you go to bed is ideal. Tempting as it is to skip now and then, you have got to make it a priority to always brush and floss every day.

If your toothbrush and brushing technique are too rough on your enamel, you may have to switch to a soft bristled toothbrush and avoid aggressive back-and-forth brushing. Far too many people believe that brushing your teeth with force and gusto is the best thing they can do for their oral health, but it can actually put too much pressure on your teeth, which can result in enamel erosion. A circular brushing technique and applying only light pressure is recommended.

Consume a well balanced diet

Yes, indeed, your diet can have a tremendous impact on your gum health.

You should always strive to eat a healthy diet including ample amounts of vitamin C, calcium, Omega-3 and other vital nutrients that keep your skin, gums, hair and bones both healthy and strong. If you can also eliminate or minimise your intake of alcohol, sugar and tobacco, even better.

Home remedies

If you ever sense even a hint of inflamed gums ever again, the first home remedy you should try is a simple saltwater rinse. Simply stir salt into water, take a sip and gurgle for a minut or two. Don’t swallow, but spit it out after swishing it around in your mouth.

Other simple home remedies worth trying out to reduce swelling and irritation include hot and cold compress, turmeric paste and tea tree oil.

If you want to learn more about home remedies that can help prevent plaque buildup and remove even the most stubborn tartar from your teeth, you should be reading this next.

Gum swelling FAQ

How do I get my swollen gums to go down?

If you gums are red, swollen and perhaps even bleeding, it could be a symptom of early-stage periodontal disease or a tooth abscess. In either scenario, your first port of call should be to contact your dentist for an accurate assessment and treatment.

Having said that, while you are waiting to see your dentist, here are a few things you can do yourself to start reducing the swelling: Brush, floss and clean your mouth thoroughly. Gum disease and swelling are almost always caused by insufficient oral hygiene, so this is where you can most easily set in and start making a difference.

Try a saltwater rinse, preferably followed up with a hot or cold compress to regulate the blood flow to the gums – this can help the swelling to down. Turmeric paste or tea tree oil can also be helpful in alleviating gum pain and swelling.

What is the fastest way to heal swollen gums?

If your gums are swollen and sore, the most efficient way of helping them heal is going to depend on the reason why they have become inflamed in the first place. 

Often, inflamed gums are caused by a poor oral hygiene level, in which case getting your teeth and gums professionally deep cleaned by a dental professional is going to be your best solution.

How long does a swollen gum last?

If left untreated, swollen gums usually go down on their own within ten to fourteen days, provided that you brush and floss regularly during this period. However, you cannot rely on this and should seek the help and advice of a dental professional. 

Is Listerine good for swollen gums?

Contrary to popular belief, Listerine is not actually helpful for swollen gums. In fact, a possible side effect of Listerine use is gum inflammation, as well as ongoing tooth and gum pain. 

Instead of listerine, try a saltwater rinse. Saltwater cleans just as well as Listerine or other mouthwash, while being much more gentle on the gums.

Does salt water help gums?

Absolutely. Saltwater both cleans and disinfects.

What’s more, it is easy to make a saltwater rinse at home. Simply mix a tea spoon of salt into lukewarm water and stir. Take a sip and swish the saltwater solution around in your mouth for about a minute.

Gargling with salt water can help reduce gum soreness and swelling. It can also work as a preventative measure against infection.


If your gums are sore and inflamed, you should make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. If your inflamed gums are caused by an underlying dental health condition, it is important to get the issue identified and treated sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, you can set in to reduce the discomfort and swelling by practicing thorough oral hygiene and avoiding detrimental habits like smoking, drinking alcohol and consuming too many sugary and starchy foods and beverages. You can also employ some of the simple but effective home remedies we have covered in this article.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.