What Causes Bruised Gums and How to Treat Them

Many times, as we are going through our daily activities, we may do something that causes a bruise, such as bumping into something or otherwise hurting ourselves. Just like we can get a bruise on our bodies, we can also get one on our gums.

Bruises on the gums can vary in color; they might appear dark brown, black, red, or purple. There is also known to be pain and bleeding along with the bruising.

There are several causes for bruised gums. In most minor cases, the bruising can go away on its own. If there is a health condition associated with the bruising or an injury that caused it, a healthcare provider can help you diagnose and treat the issue.

This article discusses the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of bruised gums.

pointing at gums

Fizkes / Getty Images

Causes

The causes of bruised gums include:

  • Flossing too hard: Flossing is a necessary step to maintain a healthy mouth and healthy gums. It is important to floss daily to prevent plaque buildup and decay in your teeth. There are different ways to floss, including using prethreaded flossers, water floss, and dental floss. Dental floss is the most common, and there are times that the gums may be sensitive or a person may floss too hard against them. This can cause bleeding and bruising. In addition, the bleeding and bruising could be due to another medical condition.
  • Falling on your face: Bruising of the gums can happen with a fall or an injury. Depending on the age of the person and the type of activity—whether it is sports-related, a fall from tripping, or due to weak bones—the fall on the face can cause bruising of the gums. The bruising is a tear or rupture of small blood vessels under the surface. If you have fallen on your face and your gums are bruised, check other areas of your face and mouth to see if there is additional injury or bruising. There could be a chipped tooth, as well as damage to the lips, jaw, or other areas of the face and mouth. Putting ice on the bruised area should help for minor injuries.
  • Eating something sharp: Eating something sharp or crunchy, or poking your mouth with a sharp object, can also cause bruising to the gums. For example, biting into a crunchy chip, using a toothpick, or eating off a fork or skewer can all cause an accidental poke that leads to bruising and at times bleeding.
  • Trauma or injury to the mouth: If there is trauma or injury to the mouth, the gums can bruise. If the mouth is hit, or there is an injury or fall, depending on the severity, bruising and swelling will develop and could be severe. It can also take some time to heal. Along with bruised gums, other injuries can occur, such as broken or fractured bones, a dislocated jaw, or a cut inside the mouth or lip due to the trauma or injury. If there is any injury or trauma to your mouth, contact a medical professional to get the proper diagnosis and treatment.  
  • Teething in babies: Typically, a baby’s teeth start to grow in at between 6 months and 1 year of age. A baby is born with 20 teeth below the gumline, and by age 3, most children’s baby teeth have grown in. As the teething occurs and the teeth start to grow in, the gums are tender and may bruise. This can come from the teething itself or from the objects babies use to soothe their gums.
  • Thrombocytopenia: Thrombocytopenia is a condition caused by a low platelet count. The body doesn't have enough platelets to form a blood clot to help stop bleeding at the site of a wound or cut. If a person with this condition gets injured or cut, a lot of bleeding can result because the platelets are low and the blood cells can’t form together to create clots to help stop it. This can cause the person to bleed too much. Some of the symptoms include bleeding gums, bruising easily, and purple, brown, or red bruises when bruising does occur.

Diagnosis

There are a few factors to consider as to why your gums are bruised. The reasons include:

  • Injury
  • Trauma
  • Eating something sharp
  • Another condition such as gingivitis

Which doctor you will see depends on the reason your gums are bruised.

If you fell and your situation is minor enough to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician, they can help you determine your injury and refer you to a specialist if necessary. If the injury is extreme, seek emergency care.

A teething baby would be seen by their pediatrician, with the possibility of being referred to a dentist.

If the bruising of the gums is related to an issue specifically with the mouth and teeth, a dentist can help you identify the problem and give a diagnosis and treatment plan.

A doctor or dentist will typically ask questions related to your symptoms, and—depending on the injury—take X-rays.

With a condition like thrombocytopenia, a doctor will conduct a physical exam and take a blood clot and blood count test. In addition, if the platelet count is low, the doctor may request a bone marrow biopsy to help diagnose any cancer or disease of the bone marrow. They may also order imaging tests such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or ultrasound to check for enlarged lymph nodes, spleen, or liver cirrhosis.

Treatment

The treatment of swollen gums varies depending on the diagnosis and why they are swollen, including:

  • If it is minor bruising, it typically goes away on its own. A cold compress and eating softer foods will help.
  • For babies who are teething, avoid hard foods.
  • Other treatments include soothing the gums with a cool small spoon, moist gauze pad, or clean finger.

If thrombocytopenia is diagnosed, the doctor may order a blood transfusion to increase the platelets. The transfusion will happen if the platelet levels are extremely low. Normal levels are 150,000 platelets per microliter of blood.

The doctor may suggest surgery to remove the spleen. Another option is steroids such as immunoglobulins or antibody proteins along with other medications that are known to help stimulate platelet production and reduce the destruction of platelets.

Coping With Gum Pain

If you have gum pain, there are things you can do on your own to help reduce the pain, including:

  • Avoiding eating crispy or sharp-edged foods
  • Using a soft toothbrush
  • Flossing gently
  • Rinsing your mouth out with warm saltwater

If your gums are in pain, over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or Motrin can help. If the pain is severe, call your dentist or doctor so they can help you make the right decision about treatment options.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Contact a healthcare provider if your bruising is caused by a fall, a hit, or an extreme injury. If you find that your gums are not improving or are extremely bruised, discolored, bleeding, or painful, you should also make an appointment. A doctor or dentist can help to properly diagnose your condition and provide the right treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes bruised gums?

Bruised gums can come from flossing, brushing your teeth too hard, a fall, an injury, or a hit to the mouth. Other causes include medical conditions such as gingivitis or thrombocytopenia.

How long do bruised gums take to heal?

The healing time for bruised gums varies. It depends on the reason why the gums are bruised and if there is a medical condition involved.

What do bruised gums look like in babies?

When a baby's gums are bruised, the colors are dark red, brown, bluish, purple, or translucent. At times, the bruising can be very noticeable when the tooth is growing in.

A Word From Verywell

If you have bruised gums and there is a concern as to why, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare provider to discuss your questions and concerns. They are there to help with your overall health and wellness.

 

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute on Aging. Taking care of your teeth and mouth. Updated March 13, 2020.

  2. Michigan Medicine. Facial injuries. Updated February 26, 2020.

  3. Mouth Healthy American Dental Association. Teething.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Thrombocytopenia. Updated November 23, 2020.

  5. Michigan Medicine. Toothache and gum problems. Updated February 28, 2020.