What causes swollen gums?

Gingivitis is the medical term for inflamed gums. This symptom can occur when poor oral hygiene conditions exist, or it can be a sign of a virus or other infection. Most people experience swollen gums at some point in their lives, but when it becomes persistent or interferes with your quality of life, it's best to have your mouth examined by an oral practitioner, such as a dentist, for the specific cause.

The tissue that surrounds the teeth is commonly known as a person's gums. When the gums are inflamed, it means that they have become red, swollen or painful to the touch. Inflammation of the gums usually occurs when plaque, the clear film that forms on the teeth, irritates the skin around the tooth. That's why it's so important to brush and floss to remove plaque buildup. Swollen gums can usually be corrected by maintaining good oral hygiene, which involves brushing your teeth two to three times a day with a soft toothbrush and flossing regularly.

When good oral hygiene doesn't correct swollen gums, one can start looking for another reason. These include periodontitis, viral or fungal infections, or even medication side effects. Often, even changing the toothbrush or adding a rinse or mouthwash to a person's daily routine can reduce inflammation.

Untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease. The bacteria in plaque cause the skin to pull away from the tooth, creating pockets between the gums and the teeth. These pockets grow larger and the teeth can eventually become loose. Progression generally occurs very slowly throughout life, and periodontitis is rarely found in children unless it is a manifestation of a deeper systemic problem. The best treatment for periodontitis is good oral hygiene.

Swollen gums can also be caused by viral or fungal infections. A good example is the herpes simplex virus, for which gum swelling is an early sign of an outbreak. In addition, children are very susceptible to the coxsackie virus, which also causes inflammation of the gums. The most common fungal infection of the mouth is candidiasis.

When a person has a larger systemic problem, such as heart disease or diabetes, swollen gums can be one of the symptoms. Other, simpler things can cause swollen gums, such as wearing dentures that don't fit properly, brushing too aggressively, or using a toothbrush with hard bristles. A good diet and good oral hygiene can usually correct the problem. Additionally, people are encouraged to visit a dentist twice a year for checkups and treatments.

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