Many things can cause your gums to be painful and sore -- but not all of them require a trip to the dentist.
Sometimes tender and sore gums are simply a sign that you brush your teeth too hard.
Other times your gums might hurt if they’re irritated from braces or dentures. If you’re a woman, hormone changes related to your period, pregnancy, or menopause can also cause your gums to become swollen and painful.
How to Soothe Sore Gums
Try these simple home remedies for achy gums:
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
- Use only toothbrushes with soft or extra-soft bristles.
- Use over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), as directed.
You’ll find other OTC products to treat sore gums at the drugstore. These include:
- Mouthwashes containing hydrogen peroxide (such as Gly-Oxide)
- Gels that you apply directly to the sore gums (such as Anbesol)
If your gums hurt and you have a white coating on your tongue or cheeks, you could have an infection called thrush. It’s a type of yeast infection. Eating yogurt with live cultures can help, but you should see a doctor or dentist if it doesn’t clear up.
If you have gum pain and white mouth ulcers with red borders, it could be canker sores. They’re not contagious and usually go away in 1 to 3 weeks. Canker sores that are larger than a half-inch can be very painful and should be treated by a dentist.
To ease your pain in the meantime, avoid spicy, salty, and acidic foods, and follow the same home remedies above.
When to See the Dentist
If your gums hurt or bleed for more than a week, head for your dentist’s chair. Red, swollen gums that bleed easily are a sign of the gum disease gingivitis. You can get your gums back to normal by brushing and flossing regularly and getting your teeth cleaned regularly. If you don’t treat it, gingivitis can lead to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis, which can cause painful pockets of pus called abscesses. It can also lead to tooth loss.
See your dentist if you have ongoing gum pain or any of these symptoms:
- Bleeding gums
- Red, swollen gums
- Gums that pull back from your teeth
- Dentures that don’t fit right anymore
- Pain when you chew
- Loose teeth
- Teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold
To keep your gums healthy and prevent gum disease, the American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day.