What causes your gums to swell?

Todd A. Welch, DMD
Seven Reasons Your Gums May be Getting Bigger:

1 - You Have Gingivitis -- Gingivitis is when the gums are overwhelmed by the amount of plaque on the teeth that they become red and puffy to try to fight the bacteria. Without proper brushing, gingivitis won't go away. If you have red and puffy gums, you might want to see your dentist. Your dentist will be able to prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash that can help reduce the swelling and get your gums back to their healthy coral pink color.

2 - Drugs are Causing Your Gums to Get Bigger -- There are several drugs that can cause your gums to get bigger. This condition is known as drug-induced gingival hyperplasia and can cause your gums to look like they are squeezing out of the spaces between your teeth and growing over your teeth. There are a few categories of drugs that can cause this:
  • Anticonvulsants.  For example primidone, phenytoin, phenobarbital, topiramate, ethosuximide, valproate, lamotrigine, and vigabatrin.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers.  For example nifedipine and verapamil.
  • Immunosuppresants such as cyclosporine
3 - You Breathe Through Your Mouth A Lot -- If find yourself breathing through your mouth very often, you can be irritating your gums. If you have a stuffed up nose and can only breathe through your mouth, you may notice your gums getting slightly bigger. It is presumed that since the air you breathe in is drying your gums, they compensate by enlarging the blood supply and getting puffier to ensure that they don't dry out.

4 - Hormones can make your gums bigger. Adolescents that are going through puberty are extremely susceptible to gingivitis. Also, pregnant women are very susceptible to gingivitis due to the high levels of progesterone in their bodies. Progesterone increases the permeability of the blood vessels in the gums. Women taking birth control may also notice enlarged gums.

5 - Stress -- If you are stressed out a lot, try to reduce it somehow. If you need some help, here's a resource to help you reduce stress.

6 - Vitamin C Deficiency -- If you aren't getting enough vitamin C in your diet, your gums can get really puffy and red. I have seen this, and it's not very pretty. You can get vitamin C from most fruits, especially citrus fruits or from a multi-vitamin.

7 - Diseases can cause enlarged gums. Certain diseases such as diabetes mellitus, leukemia, cancer, sarcoidosis, Wegener's granulomatosis, and autoimmune diseases can all cause your gums to get bigger.
Swollen gums are often a sign of gingivitis, or gum disease caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth at and below the gum line. Other causes of swollen gums include:
  • viral or fungal infection
  • poor nutrition or a vitamin deficiency
  • dentures that don't fit well
  • being pregnant
  • drug side effects
If you notice your gums are swollen, talk to your doctor or dentist. It's important to treat gingivitis and other causes of the swelling promptly in order to avoid further damage to your teeth and gums.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.