Swollen Gums in Children


Swollen gums are most often caused by bacteria, which can lead to gum disease. In children, however, swollen gums may also be caused by adult teeth coming in or tooth brushing habits.

Swollen gums may also be a symptom of a more serious illness in children.

Swollen Gums

Swollen gums are usually bright red and puffy in appearance. Sometimes there may also be pock marks or depressions in the gums; these are caused by infectious bacteria growing beneath the gums.

When bacteria are present below the gum line there may also be bleeding, especially when flossing the teeth.

When children are cutting new teeth, the gums can appear very lumpy and tightly stretched. You may be able to see some white poking through or a lighter pinkish color where the tooth is close to the surface of the gums.

Gum Disease

If a child has gum disease, the symptoms are basically the same as when adults have it. Common symptoms include inflamed and bleeding gums. Pus can form below the gums. Bad breath, or halitosis, is also common.

In children, gum disease is generally caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Even if they brush twice a day and floss, they often don't perform a thorough job of cleaning, which allows bacteria to flourish.

Other Diseases

Some cases of gum disease in children are actually secondary to a more serious illness like diabetes or autoimmune diseases. Consulting a pediatrician or dentist can confirm the cause of swollen gums in a child. The most common diseases associated with children with swollen gums are: Type I diabetes; Down syndrome; Kindler syndrome; and Papillon-Lefevre syndrome.

Trauma or Irritants

Children may also experience swollen gums when their gums have been exposed to a traumatic force or irritations. Traumatic force to the gums doesn't have to be anything extreme, since the tissue is delicate. Eating a hard candy or crunchy foods can cause material to jab into the gums or tear them. Falling and hitting the mouth can also cause swollen gums.

Touching the gums frequently or brushing too roughly with a toothbrush can cause swollen gums as well. Rough brushing can also lead to receding gums.


Proper oral hygiene is the best way to treat swollen gums in children. Follow up with regular dentist visits for cleanings and to discuss concerns about swollen gums if you feel your child's gum issues may point to a more serious illness.

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