Updated 11 February 2013

Swollen gums

Swollen gums are peculiarly engorged, globular or protrude.

Swollen gums

Other names

Gingival swelling


Swollen gums are peculiarly engorged, globular or protrude.

Possible causes

1. Gingivitis
This is an inflammatory and infectious process that affects the mucosa epithelial (soft area around teeth/gums) and is normally caused by bacterial plaque that formed along the gum line. The most common signs of gingivitis are bleeding from the gums whilst brushing teeth or flossing, bleeding when eating hard food, and inflammation and redness of the gums.

Other factors that can cause gingivitis are diabetes, smoking, age, AIDS, stress, as well as hormonal imbalances during pregnancy and puberty.

You can treat this condition by brushing your teeth regularly, flossing, warm salt water rinses (4 to 6 times per day) or rinsing with antimicrobial rinse, such as chorhexidine, twice daily. You should consult a dentist if the above condition persists after home treatment, in order to get a prescription for oral antibiotics.

2. Sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwash

3. Poorly fitting dentures
You should consult your orthodontist or /dentist if you are experiencing swollen gums, due to poorly fitting dentures (when it is causing irritation, fitting too loose or too tight), in order to have new ones made.

4. Fungal infection (oral thrush)
Oral thrush presents with creamy white, curd-like exudates on the tongue and soft palate. When scraped off, a raw or bleeding surface can be left This condition is associated with erythema (redness and swelling) of the mucosa (soft area around teeth/gums). It is often seen in patients who are immune-compromised, such as steroid users, HIV- and cancer patients. It is possible to experience pain whilst swallowing, as well as generalised pain of the inside of the mouth. It is common in newborns and may be seen in infants with associated candida diaper rash.

When you have the above symptoms, you should consult your doctor, in order to get a prescription for the correct oral anti-fungal medication.

5. Malnutrition

6. Pregnancy

7. Side effect from drugs such as phenobarbital or Dilantin


Scurvy is a deficiency due to the lack of Vitamin C intake. This condition presents with liver spots (dark spots, especially on the thighs and legs), malaise, pale complexion, swollen and bleeding gums and a person may feel depressed. It is still diagnosed among the elderly, as well as in children suffering from malnutrition.

Untreated scurvy is always fatal, but death is rare in the modern times. All that is required for full recovery is a sufficient Vitamin C intake. You can include fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamin C in your diet to prevent this condition, such as oranges, lemons, tomatoes, strawberries, kiwi fruit, guavas, potatoes, broccoli, and cabbage.

Written by Dr Anrich Burger, MB ChB (Stell)


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