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Gums - swollen

Definition

Swollen gums are abnormally enlarged, bulging, or protruding.

Alternative Names

Swollen gums; Gingival swelling

Considerations

Gum swelling is quite common and may involve one or many of the triangular-shaped bits of gum between nearby teeth. These sections are called papillae.

Occasionally, the gums swell significantly, blocking the teeth completely.

Common Causes

  • Gingivitis
  • Infection by a virus or fungus
  • Malnutrition
  • Poorly fitting dentures
  • Pregnancy
  • Sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwash
  • Scurvy
  • Side effect of a drug such as Dilantin or phenobarbital

Home Care

Improve your nutrition if it is poor.

Avoid gum irritants such as commercial mouthwashes, alcohol, and tobacco. Change your toothpaste brand and avoid using mouthwashes if your swollen gums are caused by sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwash.

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

If your swollen gums are caused by a reaction to a drug, talk to your doctor about using a different type of medication. Never change medications without first talking to your doctor.

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 dentist will examine your mouth, teeth, and gums. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:

  • Quality
  • Time pattern
    • Did the swelling begin recently?
    • Are they always swollen?
    • Does the amount of swelling change?
    • Does it only occur occasionally?
    • Have you had gum problems before?
  • Oral hygiene habits
    • How often do you brush?
    • How often do you floss?
    • How hard of a toothbrush is used?
    • How vigorously do you brush?
    • What are other habits (use of toothpicks or other)?
    • When was the last time you had the teeth professionally cleaned (at the dentist)?
  • Eating habits
    • Have you changed your diet?
    • Do you eat adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables?
    • Do you take supplemental vitamins?
  • Other
    • What medications do you take?
    • Are you pregnant?
    • Have you changed mouthwash or toothpaste recently?
    • What other symptoms do you have? For example, breath odor, sore throat, pain.

Tests may include blood studies such as a CBC or blood differential.

The patient will be taught proper mouth and gum care.

References

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      Review Date: 2/22/2010

      Review By: Jack D. Rosenberg, DDS, Advanced Dental Care, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, M.D., MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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