The most common cause of sensitive, swollen or irritated gums is a mild form of periodontal disease called gingivitis. While gingivitis usually occurs because of poor dental hygiene, according to the Mayo Clinic, hormonal changes, pregnancy, infections and systemic diseases and uncontrolled diabetes also can cause the condition, resulting in sensitive gums. Gingivitis results from a buildup of plaque and tartar on your teeth, so seeing your dentist for regular cleanings and changing the way you take care of your teeth is essential for reducing inflammation and discomfort.
Change Your Toothbrush
An electric toothbrush can help remove plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth and around your gum line that causes gingivitis. If you don’t want to make the switch to an electric toothbrush, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and change it at least every three to four months. Brush your teeth after every snack or meal, or at least twice per day, avoiding hard, fast scrubbing, which can further irritate sensitive gums. If you can’t brush, use an antibacterial rinse between meals.
Buy Special Toothpaste
Special toothpastes that work to desensitize your teeth and gums can help reduce discomfort in the short term, though they shouldn’t be used for a long period of time. In most cases, desensitizing toothpastes will take a day or two to work effectively and prevent irritation and pain. Desensitizing toothpastes, however, are not a substitute for having sensitive gums checked by your dentist.
Use dental floss at least once per day to get rid of debris and food particles that become stuck between your teeth and lead to plaque. If your gums bleed when flossing or you have difficulty using the floss because it gets stuck between your teeth, try waxed dental floss and special tools like a dental pick or stick to clean between your teeth.
Visit Your Dentist
Gingivitis can lead to serious medical conditions like periodontitis, which can cause damage to your teeth, jawbone and connecting tissue. Along with getting your teeth cleaned at least twice a year, make an appointment immediately if you notice that your gums feel soft, look like they are receding from the base of your teeth or appear discolored. Healthy gums should be firm and pink. In many cases, a cleaning can reverse gingivitis as long as you take care of your teeth after your appointment. Talk to your dentist if you have any questions about how to maintain proper hygiene.
- Mayo Clinic: Gingivitis: Definition
- PubMed Health: Gingivitis
- Mayo Clinic: Adult Health: Oral Health: Brush Up on Dental Care Basics
- Mayo Clinic: Gingivits: Lifestyle and Home Remedies
- Mayo Clinic: Gingivitis: Treatments and Drugs
- Medline Plus: Gingivitis
- Medical Terminology: An Illustrated Guide; Barbara Janson Cohen
- Photo Credit Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images
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