Swollen Gums

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Swollen gums, or gingival swelling, occur when the gums become irritated or infected, causing them to bulge and turn red. Some possible causes include gingivitis, infections, and hormone changes. 

This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for swollen gums.

Dentist showing patient model of gums

Wasan Tita / Getty Images

Symptoms of Swollen Gums

When irritation or infection occurs, the gums can become swollen. Symptoms that can develop alongside bulging or protruding include:

The cause of the gum swelling will determine what other symptoms develop alongside it. In some cases, swelling can be the only symptom.

Causes of Swollen Gums

Several things can lead to gum swelling. The most common cause is gingivitis or periodontitis. In gingivitis, the spread of the inflammation only affects the gums. In periodontitis, inflammation spreads to the periodontium, the soft tissue and bone that holds the teeth in place.

Other possible causes can include the following:

  • Viral or fungal infections of the mouth that cause gingivitis
  • Hormone changes, such as the type that occurs during puberty or pregnancy
  • Lacking the essential nutrients needed to ensure optimal oral health (malnutrition)
  • Poor oral hygiene, which can lead to gingivitis

How Do Hormone Changes Cause Gum Swelling?

When a person experiences an increase in the production of specific hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, they could experience gum swelling. These changes increase how much blood flows to the mouth and gums. In turn, the gums react more sensitively to plaque and other irritants in the mouth.

What Medications Can Cause Swollen Gums?

Hormonal medications, such as birth control, can lead to swollen gums because of how they interrupt natural hormone levels. When a person takes these drugs, they may experience decreases or surges in specific hormones that cause swollen gums.

Several other medications can lead to swollen gums, including:

  • Phenytoin (used to control seizures)
  • Cyclosporin (an immunosuppressant)
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Erythromycin, an antibiotic
  • Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim, antibiotics

Should I Stop Taking My Medication if it Causes Swollen Gums?

If swollen gums develop because of medication, always speak to a healthcare provider before making any changes to your dose. Stopping medication without medical supervision is not advised and can lead to worsened health conditions.

How to Treat Swollen Gums

There are two options for treating swollen gums: medical and at-home therapies. The type a person chooses will depend on the cause and the severity. Some medical treatment options for swollen gums include:

Home care involves lifestyle changes to help remedy swollen gums and soothe irritation. Some possible at-home therapies include:

  • Brush and floss gently twice per day
  • Rinse your mouth throughout the day with salt water
  • Increase water intake
  • Avoid smoking
  • See a dentist at least twice per year for proper cleanings
  • Avoid harsh mouthwash or toothpaste that can cause further irritation
  • Eat a balanced diet that includes whole foods with lots of vital nutrients 
  • Use a warm compress for pain or a cold compress to reduce swelling

Treatment for Medication-Induced Gum Swelling

A healthcare provider may suggest you switch medications if the type you take is causing severe gum swelling and an increased risk for gum disease. However, they may also explore medical treatment options such as surgery before switching drugs.  

Complications and Risk Factors Associated with Swollen Gums

Swollen gums can be harmless, but if they are not treated early on, they can lead to severe oral diseases such as periodontal disease. Periodontal disease presents with many symptoms, such as:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Tender and bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Gums that recede away from the teeth and turn white
  • Changes in bite

If left untreated, a person can lose teeth and experience bone loss in the jaw.

Are There Tests to Diagnose Swollen Gums?

A healthcare provider will likely send you to a dentist or periodontist to examine the swollen gums. They will perform a physical exam of your teeth and gums to determine the state of your oral health. A health and lifestyle history will also be collected to determine possible causes of the swelling.

In some cases, dental X-rays will be conducted so that your healthcare provider can determine if there is any bone loss. A blood test may also be performed to check for systemic infection in the body, which could cause swollen gums in the mouth.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Swollen gums are not always a cause for concern, but they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Because there are various causes, some of which can lead to worsened health complications, you must see your dentist if you experience swollen gums that don't go away, have no apparent cause, or appear alongside bleeding.


Swollen gums can develop for several reasons, the most common being gingivitis and periodontal disease. People who take certain medications, such as anti-seizure and blood pressure drugs, are at an increased risk of developing swollen gums as a side effect of their medication. Hormonal changes can also cause the gums to swell. These changes can occur during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, or even while taking oral contraceptives or other hormone-based medications.

To provide the right treatment direction, your healthcare provider will examine your gums, inquire about your lifestyle and health history, and perform X-rays or blood tests to determine the cause. From there, they can decide what treatment works best for you. Since there are several causes and many treatment options, therapy for swollen gums is highly personalized. Always see your dentist or healthcare provider if you notice prolonged swelling of the gums that presents with bleeding.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are swollen gums serious?

    Swollen gums aren't always serious. However, they can indicate gum disease. If a person has gum disease and leaves it untreated, it can lead to more severe oral health outcomes.

  • What are the long-term health complications associated with gum disease and swollen gums?

    If your swollen gums indicate gum disease and you do not seek treatment, you are doing yourself a disservice. Research has examined how oral health can affect the health of the rest of the body and found that not taking care of your teeth and gums could negatively impact your overall health in the long run.

  • Are Swollen Gums Always Caused by Gum Disease?

    There are several reasons why a person will develop swollen gums. Gum disease is only one of them. The symptom could also occur due to medications, changing hormone levels, and malnutrition.

15 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 Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.