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Gum Problem Basics: Sore, Swollen, and Bleeding Gums

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Gums and Canker Sores

Common culprits behind painful gums are canker sores, or mouth ulcers. These painful sores can develop anywhere inside the mouth, including on the gums, and often have a whitish center with red edges. You may have one canker sore at a time, making only one area on your gums sore, or you may have multiple sores at the same time throughout your mouth.

While researchers don't know what causes canker sores, there may be bacterial or viral involvement. People with certain autoimmune diseases may also be more likely to have gum problems caused by canker sores. Canker sores often come back over time and are not contagious.

Gums and Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can have a number of unpleasant side effects, including painful, swollen, and bleeding gums. Many people undergoing treatment for cancer contend with stomatitis, which causes the development of painful sores and ulcers on the gums and throughout the mouth.

Gums and Tobacco Products

Using cigarettes and other tobacco products can be extremely damaging to your gums. People who smoke are far more likely to develop gum disease. You may find that your smoking habit gives you a number of gum problems, from sensitive gums that bleed to painful sores.

Gums and Hormones

Some women find they have gum problems during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. The rise in hormones during puberty can heighten blood flow to the gums, making them red, swollen, and sensitive. For women with menstrual gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and more likely to bleed shortly before each menstrual period. These problems typically subside after the period begins. Pregnancy gingivitis typically starts in the second or third month of pregnancy and continues through the eighth month, causing sore, swollen, and bleeding gums. The use of oral birth control products may cause similar gum problems. Though uncommon, some women going through menopause may find that their gums become extremely dry and therefore sore and likely to bleed.

7 Tips to Prevent Sore, Swollen, and Bleeding Gums

1. Brush your teeth at least twice each day. Make sure you follow proper brushing technique. If you're not sure what to do, ask your dentist or dental hygienist for a quick lesson at your next appointment.

2. Floss daily. It doesn't take more than a few minutes, but flossing may be the most important thing you can do to prevent gum problems now and in the future.

3. Eat a well-balanced diet. A balanced diet, including plenty of vitamin C and calcium, may minimize the likelihood you'll have gum problems.

4. Drink plenty of water. Drinking water, especially after eating, can help wash food off your teeth and make it less likely that bacteria will form gum-damaging plaque.

5. Say no to tobacco. If you smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products, try to quit.

6 .Be cautious about extremely hot or cold foods and drinks. When you have gum problems, you may find you're more comfortable having lukewarm or cool foods and beverages.

7. Relax. Being stressed out raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, increasing the likelihood of inflammation throughout your body, including in your gums.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Steve Drescher, DDS on April 14, 2013
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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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