Do your gums hurt every time you take a sip of cold water or brush your teeth a little too hard? If so, it’s highly likely that you have some sort of gum disease. Of course, the initial symptoms aren’t always as severe — maybe you’ve just noticed some swelling or bleeding.
You shouldn’t ignore even such milder symptoms, though, or you may soon find yourself googling gum pain relief while holding an ice pack to your cheek.
Gum issues are not uncommon, and while the reasons for them vary from poor dental hygiene to oral cancer, there’s usually nothing to worry about. If you’ve experienced some of the symptoms mentioned above or would like to know more about dental health, keep reading.
I’ll cover everything from preventing gum disease (and other similar conditions) to the best tips and tricks for gum pain relief.
What Causes Gum Pain?
Before you can address whatever issue you may be experiencing, you first need to know what’s causing it. After all, why pay for expensive treatment plans when the solution might be as simple as flossing more? Of course, no amount of flossing will help in more severe cases. If you suspect your condition might be a serious one, the best thing to do is to consult a dentist.
However, dangerous illnesses like oral cancer are exceedingly rare, so it’s unlikely that they’re what’s causing your gum pain. So, without further ado, here are some of the most common gum issues and how to recognize them:
Poor Oral Hygiene or Brushing Too Hard
It goes without saying, but brushing your teeth regularly is important! Your mouth is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and while a certain amount is normal, things can quickly get out of hand if you neglect your oral hygiene.
On the other hand, brushing your teeth too often or too hard can also have a negative effect. Unlike teeth, gums are soft tissue, and the bristles of your toothbrush can easily damage them.
Both overbrushing and not brushing your teeth often enough can result in swollen and painful gums, so, as with most things, balance is key!
Allergies and Hormonal Changes
Allergies are another, not-so-obvious cause for gum pain. Whether you’re sensitive to some type of food or dental product, an allergic reaction will make your gums swell and hurt. Pinpointing the culprit might be tricky if you’re not exhibiting any other symptoms, but if your gums suddenly become sensitive after a change in your diet (or toothpaste), you should get an allergy test.
Hormonal changes can also irritate your gums. Such changes can be caused by your menstrual cycle, menopause, puberty, pregnancy, or certain types of medication. All of those can alter the blood flow to your gums, causing them to swell or become more sensitive.
Gum disease is usually the main culprit behind gum pain, and it can have serious consequences later on if left unchecked. To make things worse, it has been linked to other, more dangerous medical issues, like heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. As such, I’ll address it in a little more detail before I talk about gum pain relief.
Gum disease is essentially an oral infection, and it has two forms. The milder one is gingivitis, and it only affects your gums. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the bone underneath the gums and start breaking it down.
That is when the condition becomes dangerous, as pockets of air can form between your teeth and gums. As a result, your teeth can become “loose,” and if you don’t take action, you could even lose them. This condition is known as periodontitis.
How Do I Know if I Have Gum Disease?
Luckily, recognizing and preventing gum disease is quite easy. If you bleed when you floss or brush your teeth, and you notice your gums are receding, the chances are that you have gum disease.
There are various ways to treat the condition, depending on its severity, but they all boil down to controlling the infection. In most cases, an over-the-counter antibiotic gel will suffice.
However, if you’re suffering from a more severe variety of gum disease (periodontitis), a trip to the dentist might be in order. While that might sound scary, treatment is usually pretty simple and involves polishing your teeth to help your gums reattach to them more easily.
Gum Pain Relief 101: Tips and Tricks for Healthy Gums
Now that you’re familiar with the most common causes for sensitive gums, it’s time to talk gum pain relief. While some of the conditions I mentioned above (like periodontitis) will require a trip to the dentist, the tips below will help you treat the symptoms. In fact, if you follow these suggestions, you’re unlikely to ever suffer serious dental issues.
1. Get a Toothbrush With Soft Bristles
As I said earlier, brushing your teeth too hard can not only cause but also exacerbate gum pain. That’s why picking the right toothbrush and using it the correct way is essential! Look for one that has long but soft bristles, and don’t apply too much pressure when brushing.
This kind of toothbrush will clean your teeth just as effectively as a standard one while being gentler on your gums. Pay attention to your brushing technique as well — you should be using downward motions and brushing away from your gums, not toward them.
2. Pay Attention to What You Eat and Drink
If you’re after gum pain relief, the last thing you want is to cause yourself even more pain by eating/drinking irritating products. So, avoid sour (both as in “warm” and “spicy”), or acidic foods and beverages, as they can make things worse.
You should also stay away from drinks that are too cold, as those can also irritate your gums. If you can’t live without an iced latte, however (which is perfectly understandable), try not to consume hot and cold food/beverages together. Your gums are already sensitive, and they won’t be happy about the sudden change of temperature.
3. Use the Right Kind of Mouthwash
You should also be careful with mouthwash. While it’s usually great for dental health, the high alcohol content can irritate your gums if they’re already sensitive. That doesn’t mean you should forego mouthwash altogether, though!
There are certain types of mouthwash formulated specifically for sensitive gums, and you can get most of them OTC. Look for products that contain hydrogen peroxide for the best results.
4. Try a Gel for Gum Pain Relief
Aside from mouthwash, which you can use even if your gums are healthy, there are some products made specifically with gum pain relief in mind. Perhaps the most popular such products are OTC gels that you (usually) apply after brushing your teeth.
These gels are fairly cheap and available in most drugstores, so they’re worth a shot. And while they won’t address the cause of the issue, they will certainly help with the symptoms.
5. Rinse Your Mouth With Salt Water
While you should generally avoid salty foods if you’re suffering from gum pain, there is an exception to the rule. Salt is effective against bacteria growth — the main culprit behind swollen gums. So, if you’d rather not shell out a couple of bucks for an antibacterial gel, a salt water rinse is your next best bet.
Simply dissolve 1 tsp of salt in a glass of warm water, rinse your mouth for about 30 seconds, and spit the solution out. Do this twice a day for a couple of weeks, and the swelling should subside.
6. Do a Hot Compress…
A hot compress is a universal remedy for pretty much any type of pain, and that includes gum pain. So, how do you do it? It’s easy — just soak a towel in some hot water, and press it to your face over the problematic area.
Don’t apply it directly to your gums, though, and never use boiling water. Also, if you’re not a fan of the damp feeling, put the towel in a thin plastic bag to protect your skin from the moisture.
7. …or a Cold One
If a hot compress doesn’t help, a cold one might do the trick. The process is essentially the same, except for a cold compress, you’d use an ice pack instead of a hot towel. Be careful not to keep the ice on your skin for too long, however, as that can have the opposite effect to what you want.
Final Thoughts: If All Else Fails, See a Dentist
While gum pain is definitely unpleasant, it’s also usually nothing to worry about. As I mentioned, the most frequent causes are poor oral hygiene or gum disease, both of which are easy to deal with.
However, if you suspect you have periodontitis or a more serious condition, you should see a dentist. While the remedies above will help prevent and alleviate the symptoms, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Still, such cases are the exception, not the norm, so don’t worry too much if your gums suddenly start hurting. Just follow my suggestions on gum pain relief, keep good oral hygiene, and never worry about periodontitis again!