What Causes Bruised Gums and How to Treat Them

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A bruised gum might look like a discoloration where it was bumped or scraped. Just like you can get a bruise on your body, you can also get a bruise on your gums.

Bruised gums could be caused from a mild trauma like eating something sharp. It might also be caused by dental work or certain medical conditions.

You can usually treat it with home remedies like a cold compress or a moist gauze pad. It often heals within a couple of weeks, but might last longer if it's caused a medical condition that needs to be treated by a healthcare provider.

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

What Do Bruised Gums Look Like?

A bruised gum might have a different color from the rest of your gums. They might appear dark brown, black, purple, or red.

In addition to the change in color, a bruise on your gums could be painful, and may or may not bleed.

Potential Causes of Bruised Gums

Verywell / Katie Kerpel

What Causes Bruised Gums?

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 pre-threaded 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 with 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 an object hits the mouth, 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.  
  • Dental work: Accidental trauma from dental work may cause a bruise. An amalgam tattoo can also look like bruised gums. Amalgam tattoos are caused by amalgam (silver filling) particles getting into the gum tissue, usually when a filling is placed or removed. It's painless and can be bluish-gray or black in color. The most common location is the gums next to a filling, but it can also appear inside the cheeks, lips, tongue, or roof of the mouth.
  • Teething in babies: Typically, between 6 months and 1 year of age a baby’s teeth start to grow. A baby is born with 20 teeth below the gum line, and by age 3, most children’s baby teeth have grown in. When the teeth start to grow in and teething occurs, the gums are tender and may bruise. This can come from the teething itself or from the objects babies use to soothe their gums. The bruised gums may be dark red, brown, bluish, purple, or translucent.
  • Gingivitis: Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums that is most commonly caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth that irritates and inflames the gums. The inflammation can cause bleeding, swelling, and bright red or reddish-purple gums that look like bruising.
  • 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.

Diagnosing Bruised Gums

Which healthcare provider you will see for a diagnosis depends on the reason your gums are bruised.

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

If you fell and your situation is minor enough to schedule an appointment with your primary healthcare provider, they can help you evaluate 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 or another healthcare provider, 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 healthcare provider or dentist will typically ask questions related to your symptoms, and—depending on the injury—take X-rays.

With a condition like thrombocytopenia, a healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam and do a blood clot and blood count test. If the platelet count is low, they may order one or more of the following:

  • Bone marrow biopsy to help diagnose any cancer or disease of the bone marrow
  • Imaging tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or ultrasound, to check for enlarged lymph nodes, spleen, or liver cirrhosis.

Treatment for Bruised Gums

The treatment of bruised and swollen gums varies depending on the diagnosis and why they are swollen. The healing time will also vary, depending on the reason why the gums are bruised and if there is a medical condition involved. The following may be treatment options:

  • If it's minor bruising, it typically doesn't need treatment and 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 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.

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

If the bruising is related to an enlarged spleen, a healthcare provider 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, such as:

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

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 healthcare provider 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.

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.

 

7 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.

  2. Michigan Medicine. Facial injuries.

  3. Brigham and Women's Hospital. Amalgam tattoo.

  4. Mouth Healthy American Dental Association. Teething.

  5. Medline Plus. Gingivitis.

  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Thrombocytopenia.

  7. Michigan Medicine. Toothache and gum problems.

By Yvelette Stines
Yvelette Stines, MS, MEd, is an author, writer, and communications specialist specializing in health and wellness.