Gum Boil: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

A boil is a collection of pus that can occur anywhere from your scalp to your feet. Developing a boil in any part of your body could be painful and uncomfortable. One of the worst places to get a boil is probably the gum because the inner part of your mouth is constantly touching it and worsening the pain!

A gum boil is not normal and is usually the sign of an infection.

Some people refer to it as a gum pimple. It is also known as an abscess and it is the exit point through which the pus gathered from the underlying infection drains. This article highlights the causes, symptoms and how gum boils can be treated.

What Are The Causes Of Gum Boil?

The main causes of a gum boil are bacteria from plaque, food particles, or tooth decay and this leads to infection beneath the gum.

1. Gum Disease

Gum disease such as gingivitis and periodontitis causes the gums to become irritated and inflamed and this can lead to gaps between teeth and gums. Food and bacteria are able to get below the gum line causing boil formation.

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Gum disease is usually caused by poor oral hygiene, smoking, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus which leads to plaque build-up and eventually, gum disease.

2. Decayed Or Infected Tooth

Broken tooth


A severely decayed tooth or a tooth that has become infected due to a fracture, a failed root canal or trauma is another cause of gum boil. The infection in the tooth can spread into the gum and cause pus accumulation resulting in a boil.

3. Foreign Body Or Food Impaction

Foreign body or food being trapped in the gum can cause gum irritation. This leads to the gums getting inflamed then infected and this shows in the gum as a boil.

4. Retained Baby Tooth or Un-erupted Tooth

A baby tooth that has not yet fallen out while the permanent one is growing beneath it can be a source of infection. Also, a tooth that is yet to come out or stuck in the bone, such as the wisdom tooth, can also cause a boil to form on the gum.

5. Reduced Immunity

Medical conditions like Diabetes and HIV reduces the ability of the body to fight bacteria due to the compromised immune state. This makes people with this condition prone to coming down with gum boils.

6. Viral Infections

Viral infections of the mouth such as cold sores and Hand -Foot- and- Mouth disease usually present as a boil on the gums. In this case, there is no pus accumulation except if the boil becomes superinfected by bacteria.

There is associated pain which interferes with speech and eating. This condition is also seen if you have reduced immunity.

7. Trauma or Injury to The Gums

Injury or trauma from hot foods, ill-fitting dentures or other appliances can cause a bump to form on the gum. If this bump becomes infected, it can lead to gum boil.

8. Oral Cancer

newspaper clipping of cancer

Gum boil is a rare symptom of oral cancer.

Symptoms Of Gum Boil

  • Pain

Typically, the first indication that you have a gum boil is pain. Although some gum boils aren’t painful, most of them are.
Other symptoms of gum boils are:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums
  • Pus discharge
  • Ear pain
  • Gum swelling
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaw or facial swelling in cases of severe infection

Types Of Gum Boils

There are four types of gum boils and they are categorized based on where they are located.

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1. Gingival Abscess

Gum abscess

This is a gum boil that forms at the gum line. Caused by food packing beneath the gum or foreign body like a trapped fish-bone.

2. Periapical Abscess

This forms at the root of the tooth and it caused by an infected tooth.

3. Periodontal Abscess

A gum boil that develops in the area where the structures that support the tooth are is called a periodontal abscess. An increase in pressure due to a foreign object within the gum tissue surrounding the tooth, or a pocket (space) between the bone and gums, can cause this type of abscess.

4. Pericoronal Abscess

Develops around the crown of a tooth. It is usually associated with a wisdom tooth which is coming out and the gum tissue around it becomes infected or inflamed.

How Are Gum Boils Treated?

The best form of treatment for a gum boil is to maintain good oral health so as to prevent one from forming in the first place. But if the boil does develop, what can be done to treat it?

Before we list different treatment options, please avoid touching the boil with your hands as this may worsen the inflammation.

Oral Hygiene

Oral hygiene

Gum boil caused by gum disease is treated by proper oral hygiene practices like brushing twice daily, flossing, and rinsing with fluoride containing mouthwash like Listerine, antibiotic mouthwash like chlorhexidine, visiting your dentist for professional cleaning and also deep cleaning to get rid of the bacteria in your gums. In severe cases, periodontal surgery may also be required.

Associated medical conditions like uncontrolled diabetes need to be reviewed by a physician for proper management. Smoking cessation programmes will help to treat gum boil caused by smoking.

Other medical conditions that can also suppress immunity such as HIV requires urgent medical attention and co-management with a doctor. People with these conditions require more frequent visits to the dentist.

Dental Procedure

dental procedure

If a decayed or infected tooth is the cause of the gum boil, root canal treatment or extraction of the affected tooth will be recommended by your dentist depending on the severity. Once the source of infection (the tooth) is treated, the boil will resolve.

It is also possible to have a gum boil drained under local anesthesia in the dental clinic so as to remove the pus. This can be done in conjunction with the other listed treatment options.

If the gum boil is due to ill-fitting dentures, your denture needs to be adjusted to resolve the swelling.

Extraction of the retained baby tooth is needed if the gum boil is caused by it. Also, gum boil may resolve as soon as the un-erupted tooth comes out. Sometimes a cut may be made by your dentist around the gum to expose the tooth and quicken it’s coming out.

In cases of where the tooth is trapped in the jaw (impacted), then the tooth requires a surgical extraction.

Medication And Surgery

Antibiotics

An antibiotic prescription is also a part of the treatment for gum boils and is used in conjunction with other treatments. They could also prevent infection in gum boils that may not be caused by an infection.

In some cases, surgical removal of the gum boil may be needed. If the gum boil is as a result of oral cancer, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or all three of them may be required for treatment.

Supportive Treatment

Fruits

Viral causes of gum boils may resolve in about a week without treatment. Supportive treatment like eating foods that are bland, eating fruits and vegetables, taking pain killers (analgesics) to relieve pain and sometimes multivitamins may be helpful.

Warm water and salt rinse is used for quick healing and to prevent infection. In severe cases or in patients that have reduced immunity, antiviral medications will be prescribed by your dentist.

Home Remedies For Gum Boils

As pain is usually the first indicator of a gum boil, there are a few at-home remedies that can help you ease the discomfort until you are able to visit your dentist. Remember that these are only temporary and not replacements for professional dental care.
1) Warm water and salt rinse – This helps to reduce pain and infection.
2) Analgesics – Over the counter analgesics like paracetamol or diclofenac can be taken to relieve the painful symptoms.
3) Applying analgesic gel to the area can also relieve pain.
4) Applying a warm compress to the affected side of the face is also very helpful.

In Summary

Happy tooth

Noticing a boil or pimple on your gum is most often a sign that something is wrong and there is an ongoing infection. An urgent trip to your dentist’s office is very necessary to prevent it from getting worse.

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Onyeka Mgbemere, BDS

Dr. Onyeka is a graduate of Dental surgery. She is a licensed dentist who is passionate about the promotion of oral health education and prevention of oral diseases. Her hobbies are watching movies and reading.
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