Sore Gums: Likely Causes And Relief Tips

When you think about a healthy mouth, the focus is most likely to be on preventing holes in your teeth. However, a healthy mouth also includes healthy gums.

You need to pay attention to your gums.

Sore gums may be a sign of early gum disease but because the pain is usually mild and relatively common, it is overlooked. There are a number of things that can cause your gums to be sore. This article explains the likely causes and tips on how to relieve them.


What Are The Causes Of Sore Gums?

1. Improper Brushing Technique

Brushing technique
Brushing too hard or using a hard textured toothbrush can cause sore gums. This is noticed during or after brushing. Also, brushing using a back and forth motion can cause gum irritation.

2. Dental Appliances

Sore gums due to dental appliances like dentures or braces may be temporary. It usually resolves once your mouth adjusts to the appliance.


3. Cuts

Sore gums can be as a result of a cut. The cut may be due to a sharp edge on a dental appliance, fishbone or any sharp food that can easily prick the gum.

4. Allergic Reaction To Dental Hygiene Products


Allergic reactions to the ingredients in some kinds of toothpaste, mouthwash, and other oral hygiene products could be the reason for your sore gums.

5. Food Allergy


Your sore gums might be due to an allergic reaction to certain foods. An example of such foods is peanuts.

6. Gum Disease

Gum disease is inflammation of the gums. It is caused by poor oral hygiene and affects the supporting tissues that hold the teeth in place. Other causes of gum disease are smoking and uncontrolled diabetes mellitus.

The earliest stage of this disease is called gingivitis. The symptoms are painful and swollen gums that bleed easily. This condition can advance to periodontitis (a really bad case of gum disease) and if not treated in time, can lead to tooth loss.

7. Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy)

Vitamin c

Scurvy is a severe form of vitamin C deficiency. It occurs when you don’t get enough vitamin C from your diet, or when your body has difficulty absorbing the vitamin. Symptoms include sore, swollen, and bleeding gums.

8. Hormonal Changes


Hormonal changes occur during pregnancy, puberty, menstruation, and menopause. Fluctuations in the hormonal levels during these periods can cause increased blood flow to the gums, making them very sore and sensitive.

9. Canker Sores

Canker sores, also known as mouth ulcers, are painful noncontagious sores that appear on the gums and sometimes, on the tongue and lip. They are red but can also have a white coating. These sores can irritate your gums causing soreness and are often caused by vitamin deficiencies, stress, autoimmune diseases, and acidic foods.

10. Mouth infections

white lesions on the tongue

Infections in the mouth such as oral thrush and herpes can cause the gums to be sore.

11. Stress

If you are under a lot of stress, the hormone that controls stress, called cortisol, becomes elevated. High levels of cortisol over a prolonged period causes inflammation in different parts of the body, including the gums.


12. Burns

Hot pizza
Burns on the gums from hot foods like pizza or coffee can cause your gums to be sore.

13. Abscessed tooth

An infected tooth can form an abscess and this can result in your gums being swollen and sore.

14. Oral Cancer

Cancer of the mouth usually shows up like a sore that refuses to heal. It can appear on your gums, inner cheek, tongue, and even your tonsils. If you have a sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal after two weeks, contact your dentist immediately.

Relief Tips For Soothing Sore Gums

Soft toothbrush

For quick relief for sore gums, here are some simple home remedies you can try:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
  • Always use a medium or soft-bristled toothbrush to brush your teeth.
  • Avoid taking hot, spicy, salty or acidic foods.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol can be used to relieve the soreness.

Other over the counter products you can use to treat sore gums are:

  • Mouthwashes that containing hydrogen peroxide
  • Analgesic gels that you can apply directly to the sore gums such as xylocaine gel.
  • Vitamin c supplements and fruits rich in vitamin c like oranges can also be used to promote healing.


When Should I See My Dentist?


Sore gums may be mild and resolve after a week but if it hurts for more than a week, head to your dentist’s office immediately.

Your dentist will examine you to figure out the exact cause and provide adequate treatment.
The treatment for sore gums is dependent on the cause:
• Brushing with a medium or soft-bristled toothbrush will help relieve soreness caused by a hard toothbrush. Also, proper brushing techniques such as the up and down movement and the wrist roll movement must be applied to relieve soreness caused by vigorous or improper brushing technique.


• Sore gums as a result of an appliance usually resolve after some days when you have become used to it. Warm salt water rinse can also help to relieve the pain. If it is as a result of a sharp end on the appliance, it needs to be adjusted by your dentist to prevent more harm to your gums.


• If the pain is due to a cut or a burn from hot food, your dentist may prescribe over the counter analgesics to relieve the pain, warm salt water rinse, and analgesic gel.
• If you think the sore gums might be an allergic reaction to a dental hygiene product or food, try to find out which food or product is responsible for the reaction. Once you identify the product, discontinue using it.

An elimination diet may help you identify the exact food causing the allergy. To try this diet, stop eating a certain food for 30 days and then start eating it again to see what happens.

• There is no specific medical recommendation for treating canker sores as they usually disappear within two weeks. If a mouth ulcer lasts for more than three weeks, see your dentist.


• If it is due to smoking and use of other tobacco products, try to stop smoking. Your doctor can help you with a smoking cessation programme and also nicotine replacement therapy.

• Sore gums due to hormonal changes should be reviewed by your dentist. Ensure you maintain good oral hygiene practice and also visit your dentist regularly for professional cleaning.

• If caught on time, sore gums due to gingivitis can be reversed with proper oral hygiene which includes brushing and flossing twice daily and use of mouthwash. Other causes of gingivitis like uncontrolled diabetes should also be managed by a specialist.


Balanced diet
• Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can treat sore gums due to vitamin deficiency. If the deficiency is severe, you may need to use vitamin supplements to help restore your body’s vitamin requirements.

• A sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal after two weeks can be a symptom of oral cancer. Ensure you visit your dentist for diagnosis and follow up cancer treatment.


Tooth extraction

If your dentist diagnoses an abscessed tooth as the cause of your sore gums, they’ll recommend treatment of the infected tooth. Oftentimes, a root canal is required and drainage of the abscess. If the tooth can’t be saved, your dentist would recommend an extraction.

Stress relief methods such as yoga can be used to manage sore gums due to stress.



There are a number of reasons that you might be experiencing sore gums, but most of them can be avoided by a healthy lifestyle, proper oral hygiene, and routine dental checks.

If you have persistent pain, swelling, or soreness on your gums that last longer than two weeks, ensure you make an appointment with your dentist for a full diagnosis and recommendation for treatment.

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Onyeka Mgbemere, BDS

Dr. Onyeka Mgbemere is a graduate of Dentistry and a licensed dentist who is passionate about the promotion of oral health education and prevention of oral diseases. She is currently undergoing her residency program in Oral medicine after spending years working at a Naval hospital. Her hobbies are watching movies and reading.