What Is a Gum Boil?

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A gum boil is a type of periodontal disease that involves the formation of an abscess on the gums. It causes pain and swelling. If left untreated, it can spread to the teeth and surrounding tissues. This article will discuss gum boil symptoms, causes, and diagnosis. It will also discuss treatments and prevention.

A dentist performs a procedure on a person in a dental procedure room

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Types of Gum Boils

A gum boil is an abscess that forms on the gum. An abscess is a painful swollen bump filled with pus (which includes living and dead white blood cells, bacteria, and debris). Depending on where the gum boil is located, it can be subcategorized into one of these two types:

  • Gingival abscess: This type of abscess only involves the gum.
  • Periodontal abscess: The abscess is in the space between the gum and tooth.

Other types of dental abscesses involve the teeth, like the periapical abscess. This type is found at the root of the tooth.

Periodontal disease is a common condition among people in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47% of people over age 30 have some type of periodontal disease.

Gum Boil Symptoms

The primary symptom of a gum boil is a swollen, painful bump on the gum. Pain can be felt at all times and can worsen when eating and chewing. The other symptoms of a gum boil include:

  • Swollen gums
  • Teeth sensitivity to cold and heat
  • Pus drainage
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Tooth pain
  • Fever (not usual unless the gum abscess has spread farther)


A gum boil is caused by bacteria that enter between the gum and the tooth. Or, foreign bodies (commonly food or food products) can be wedged in the gums, leading to an infection. Bacteria can also enter the gum through a sore or open wound. The infection causes an abscess to form, which is a pocket of infection filled with pus.

An infected tooth can also cause a gum boil as bacteria from the root infection can travel into the gum and result in a boil in the gum.

Some conditions and situations can increase the risk of a gum boil. These include:

  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum surgery
  • Gum trauma
  • Weakened immune system, such as with diabetes, corticosteroid use, or chemotherapy


When you have symptoms of a gum boil, see a healthcare provider, most often a dentist. Diagnosing a gum boil can usually be done by examination and the person's reported symptoms.

The healthcare provider will look into your mouth and see the swollen bump. They may ask questions about your medical history and ask if there has been any recent mouth trauma.

The healthcare provider may want to perform an X-ray if there is concern that the gum boil has spread to the teeth.


While a gum boil may drain on its own at home and relieve the symptoms temporarily, the source of infection remains, and it will often recur until it is treated by a dentist or healthcare provider. Do not attempt to "pop" a gum boil, as it can lead to the further spread of the infection.

A gum boil can become a serious medical condition if not treated promptly. The infection can spread and affect the teeth and surrounding tissues and bone.

To relieve the pain before getting treatment, you may use Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen). Talk to a healthcare provider to ensure which of these is most appropriate for you and the dosage.

A healthcare provider will drain the abscess by making a small incision. They will clean out the infectious material from the abscess. After clearing out the abscess, the healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. After treatment, frequent saltwater rinses may help ease symptoms.

Additional treatment may be necessary if the gum boil has spread to the teeth. These treatments may include a root canal or tooth extraction (pulling a tooth). In a root canal surgery, the pulp chamber of the tooth is removed to clean out an infection. It may be performed by a dentist or an endodontist, a dentist specializing in root canals.


Keeping a healthy mouth and gums is the best way to prevent a gum boil. Visit a dentist regularly for cleanings and an exam. Other ways to help prevent a gum boil are:

  • Floss or use other methods to clean between the teeth at least once per day.
  • Brush teeth twice per day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Don't rinse out the mouth after brushing. This rinses the protective toothpaste.
  • Avoid sugary and starchy foods.


A gum boil is an abscess that forms on the gum. The abscess can form almost anywhere on the gums but is often seen between the gum and teeth. The symptoms include pain, swelling, the sensation of loose teeth, and bad breath.

Treatment includes clearing out the abscess and starting antibiotics. In some cases, a root canal or tooth extraction may be necessary.

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.
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By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.