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Gum Infection


Professionally, our gums are called gingiva. Our gums are the supportive, fibrous tissues that are formed at the base of our teeth. Generally they are pink in color. When our gums become infected, there are numerous, visible symptoms to indicate a gum infection has formed. These symptoms include redness, inflammation (swelling), constant bad breath, toothaches, tender and/or bleeding gums.

A gum infection is different from a tooth infection because the gums are not as effectively controlled by means of brushing, flossing and rinsing. However, healthy gums and healthy teeth do go hand-in-hand and do benefit each other when proper oral hygiene is used. There are three major types of gum infections and all can be successfully treated.

Types of Gum Infections

There are three types of gum infection:

  • Irritated Gums
  • Cavities and Abscesses
  • Gum Disease

You can classify these types of gum infections into 3 levels: mild, moderate, and severe. Irritated gums are the result of tiny food particles getting stuck along the gum line and tooth. The longer the food sits there, the more irritated the gums become. Food tends to begin to seep into the gum line, and if left alone long enough, a dentist will need to flush it out. This is one reason why brushing your teeth within 20 minutes of eating is critical. Other times, irritated gums are the result of trauma or injury to the gums or a tooth.

If you let your cavities get too big without receiving treatment, the cavity could begin to irritate your gums, and eventually it will lead to other problems such as gum infection. A tooth abscess is the result of an untreated cavity.

The most common forms of gum infection are gingivitis and periodontal disease. Your gum infection begins as gingivitis and grows into periodontal disease. Bacteria build during the gingivitis stage and create large pockets where more bacteria spread. These bacteria develop into toxins and speed up the destructive process. Gum disease can be reversed depending on the severity of the condition.

Gum Infection Symptoms

There are several different symptoms you can look for to help you determine whether or not you may have a gum infection:

  • Redness around the gums
  • Tenderness of the gums
  • Inflammation at gum line
  • Pain
  • Toothache
  • Sensitivity when chewing
  • Bleeding gums
  • Constant bad breath or bad odor in mouth

What Causes Gum Infections?

Gum infections are caused by bacteria that build on and around your teeth and gums. Even if you do not eat or drink anything, bacteria are in a continuous state of reproducing. It is very important that you have good oral health. Maintaining this oral health is essential to preventing gum infections. Here are some things that cause gum infections:

  • Improper care of teeth and gums
  • Not visiting the dentist regularly
  • Drinking too many sugary, carbonated beverages
  • Eating foods that get stuck in your teeth (nuts, raisins, etc.) and not brushing and/or flossing them out

Gum Infection Treatment

As mentioned before, gum infections can be treated and cured. Depending on the severity of your infection, you may or may not receive the following treatment options:

  • Antibiotics
  • Incision draining, such as with an abscessed tooth

Gum infection home remedies include:

  • Gargling or rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater (measurement should be 1/2 tsp of salt to 1 cup water)
  • Clove or cinnamon oil can be rubbed on the infected area
  • Garlic is known to be a natural painkiller
  • Aloe Vera can be massaged onto the infected area
  • Lemon mixed with salt, turns into a paste and can be applied topically
  • Hydrogen peroxide powder mixed with water

For the hydrogen peroxide solution, take ½ spoon of peroxide powder and mix it with ½ cup of water and rinse your mouth with it. For the lemon/salt mixture, take a tsp of lemon juice, place it in a small dish and mix in a dash of salt. Apply this solution to the infected area.

Preventing Gum Infections

Here is a look at some preventive tips to help you avoid gum infections and other types of oral problems:

  • Brush, floss and use mouthwash twice a day or after each meal
  • Visit your dentist twice a year or as often as they recommend
  • Practice good oral hygiene habits
  • Eat healthy foods, especially in between meals
  • At the first sign of symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist
  • Avoid or reduce your sugar intake (foods and drinks)
  • Talk with your dentist about other preventive measures you can take

Complications of Gum Infections

Blunt trauma, drug abuse, gum disease and compromised immune systems can all lead to a gum infection. Each of these things allows bacteria to grow out of control within the gums, which can cause problems and seriously damage your gums and the rest of your body. Additional complications of gum infections can include:

  • Receding gum line
  • Tooth loss
  • Support bone loss

Gum infections can also increase your risk of disease or medical conditions such as:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Hardening of arteries
  • Premature and/or underweight baby

Talking to Your Dentist

Here are some suggestive questions to ask your dentist about gum infections:

  • What caused my gum infection? How severe is it?
  • Which treatment options are available for my gum infection?
  • How will treatment affect my eating and speaking?
  • Which home remedies do you think work best?
  • Which over-the-counter products work best for fighting gum infection?

Page updated February 2011



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