Gingival swelling

Alternative names
Swollen gums; Gums - swollen

Swollen gums are abnormally enlarged, bulging, or protruding.

Gum swelling is quite common and may involve one or many papillae (the triangular-shaped bits of gum between adjacent teeth).

Occasionally, the gums swell significantly, obscuring the teeth altogether.

Common Causes

  • Infection by a virus or fungus  
  • Gingivitis  
  • Poorly fitting dentures  
  • Sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwash  
  • Side effect of a drug such as Dilantin or phenobarbital  
  • Malnutrition  
  • Vitamin C deficiency  
  • Pregnancy (1st or 2nd trimester)

Home Care
Improve your nutrition if it is poor.

Avoid gum irritants such as commercial mouthwashes, alcohol, and tobacco. For swollen gums caused by sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwash, change the toothpaste brand and avoid using mouthwashes.

Use good oral hygiene. See a periodontist (or dentist) at least every 6 months.

For swollen gums caused by reaction to a drug, consult your health care provider about using substitutes. NEVER CHANGE MEDICATIONS WITHOUT CONSULTING YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER.

Call your health care provider if

  • swelling is severe, persistent, or is accompanied by other unexplained symptoms.  
  • discomfort is associated with swelling

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.

Medical history questions documenting bleeding gums in detail may include the following:

  • Quality       o How swollen are the gums?       o Can you see the teeth?       o Are the gums bleeding?  
  • Time pattern       o Did the swelling begin recently?       o Are they always swollen?       o Does the amount of swelling change?       o Does it only occur occasionally?       o Have you had gum problems before?  
  • Oral hygiene habits       o How often do you brush?       o How often do you floss?       o How hard of a toothbrush is used?       o How vigorously do you brush?       o What are other habits (use of toothpicks or other)?       o When was the last time you had the teeth professionally cleaned (at the dentists)?  
  • Eating habits       o Have you changed your diet?       o Do you eat adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables?       o Do you take supplemental vitamins?  
  • Other       o What medications are being taken?       o Do you take anticonvulsants such as Dilantin or phenobarbital?       o Are you pregnant?       o Have you changed mouthwash or tooth paste recently?       o What other symptoms are present? Is there:           + breath odor           + redness of the gums           + abnormal color of the teeth           + sore throat           + pain

The physical examination will include a detailed examination of the mouth, teeth, and gums.

DIAGNOSTIC TESTS that may be performed include blood studies such as a CBC or blood differential.

The patient will be taught proper mouth and gum care. Emotional support and reassurance that the swelling typically resolves with treatment should be offered.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Levon Ter-Markosyan, D.M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.