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Updated on October 3, 2022

Gum Boils: Symptoms, Causes, Home Remedies & Treatments

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What is a Gum Boil?

A gum boil, or periodontal abscess, is a small, pus-filled bump on the gums. Often, it happens when bacteria from food particles, plaque, or tooth decay cause an infection in the tissues or teeth. It may also be a symptom of oral cancer, but this is rare.1

Dentists categorize gum boils depending on their location:2

  • Gingival abscesses — These abscesses only affect the gums. They usually develop when food becomes trapped in the gum tissue. 
  • Periapical abscess — These are the most common kind of tooth abscesses. If decay or trauma damages tooth enamel, bacteria can infect the tissue and spread to the root. 
  • Periodontal abscess — Sometimes called gum infections, these abscesses are pockets of infected gum alongside teeth roots. 

Treating a gum boil is essential. Left untreated, it can lead to a more severe infection. 

What Does a Gum Boil Look Like?

A gum boil may appear as a round lump on the gums. The overlying gum tissue might be red and swollen. In some cases, the lump might drain pus.3

What Gum Boils Look Like In Your Mouth

gum boil closeup
Gum boil seen as lump hidden behind the upper lip.
close up shot pus s abscess in gums
Close-up shot of a developed inflammation of the gums with abscess.

Symptoms of a Gum Boil

In addition to a visible lump, symptoms of gum boils may include:1

  • Toothache
  • Pus discharge
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Pain or discomfort when chewing
  • Gum swelling and inflammation
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Pockets forming around the teeth

Gum boils are a sign of infection. If it spreads, you may experience other symptoms like fever or swollen lymph nodes.

What Causes Gum Boils?

Poor dental hygiene, tooth decay, and trauma are the most common causes of dental abscesses of the teeth or gums. Sometimes rough brushing can trigger a gingival abscess.2

Anything that damages a tooth's protective enamel can allow bacteria to enter and cause an infection and abscess. 

The infection compresses the inner tissues of the tooth, causing severe pain. It then tracks through the root canal and into the jaw, appearing as a bump on the gums. 

Other causes of gum boils include:3

  • Partially erupted teeth
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Teeth grinding 
  • Chemical irritants
  • Badly fitted dentures
  • Immunosuppression 
  • Oral cancer
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When to See a Dentist

Make a dentist appointment as soon as possible if you have any symptoms of a gum boil. Because a gum boil is a sign of infection, it can quickly become severe or life-threatening without treatment.4

To diagnose a gum boil, your dentist will examine your mouth and teeth and ask about your medical history and symptoms. They may take X-rays to check for tooth decay or other problems.

A fever or swollen lymph nodes could signify the infection has spread. Contact your doctor immediately.

How to Treat a Gum Boil 

Gum boils need professional diagnosis and treatment to prevent complications. However, some home remedies may help alleviate pain and ease symptoms.

Home Remedies

Saltwater Mouthwash

Salt rinses may kill some harmful oral bacteria. They also remove any loose debris and reduce inflammation and swelling.

Research shows salt water rinsing supports gum health and promotes oral wound healing. The most effective concentration is around 2% salt. To make a salt rinse, mix 1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of water.5

Swish the mixture around the mouth for around 30 seconds before spitting it out. Repeat several times a day.

Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash

Hydrogen peroxide has antibacterial properties. It may help ease the pain and inflammation of gum disease, the primary cause of dental abscesses.

In a 2017 study, researchers found that participants using hydrogen peroxide for gum disease had fewer symptoms than the control group.6

You can make a mouthwash by mixing one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water. Swish the mixture around the mouth twice daily.

Turmeric Paste

Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, thanks to its active ingredient, curcumin. Mix a small amount of turmeric into regular toothpaste and brush as usual.

Turmeric mouthwash may also help remove plaque and bacteria. They have been shown to reduce inflammation and aid in gum disease prevention.7 Other studies suggest turmeric reduces dental pain and helps treat periodontal disease.8

Essential Oils

Various essential oils have natural properties that may reduce oral bacteria. Research shows peppermint oil can combat harmful oral bacteria. It may also reduce bad breath.9

Clove oil contains eugenol. This natural chemical has anesthetic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it may help treat tooth decay.10

Likewise, cinnamon oil has antibacterial and antifungal effects. Research shows it could prevent bacterial infections in the mouth.11

To use essential oils for oral health:

  • Add 1 drop to regular toothpaste or mouthwash
  • Make a mouth rinse with 1 drop of essential oil and ¼ cup of water
  • Blend 1 drop of essential oil and 1 tablespoon of carrier oil, such as coconut oil
  • Swish the mixture around in your mouth
  • Spit into the sink (don’t swallow any of it)

Professional Treatments

The first phase of treatment involves alleviating symptoms and preventing infection from spreading. Then, a dentist may recommend further treatment to avoid reoccurrence.3

Drainage and Cleaning

Your dentist will drain the abscess through a gum incision, removing the pus. They will then use dental tools to clean the periodontal pocket and remove dead tissue and bacteria. Lastly, they will use an antiseptic rinse to help kill the remaining bacteria.

Draining and cleaning the gum boil allows your immune system to manage the infection.

Antibiotics

The dentist may prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing the infection. If the abscess forms below the gumline, draining it might not be possible. In these cases, antibiotics can help.

They may also recommend antibiotics if the infection has spread or the person has a weakened immune system.

Amoxicillin combined with clavulanic acid is the first-choice antibiotic. Clindamycin is an alternative for people who are allergic to penicillin.

Further treatment

If you have a periapical abscess in the root of a tooth, you may need a root canal to treat the infection. This involves cleaning the inflamed, infected tissue inside the tooth and disinfecting the area. Then, a filling is placed to seal the space.

A dentist may recommend tooth removal if they don't think root canal therapy can save it.

In severe cases, gum infections can damage the underlying jawbone. The dentist may then need to remove the dead areas.

Prevention

Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent gum boils. This includes:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day
  • Flossing daily
  • Visiting the dentist regularly

Most people need dental checkups every 6 months. However, more frequent visits may be necessary if you have dental issues. Contact your dentist at the first signs of infection or inflammation.

Smoking is a significant risk factor for gum disease. It also reduces treatment success. Therefore, quitting smoking may help prevent gum boils.

Diabetes is another risk factor for gum disease and boils. High blood sugar increases the glucose in saliva and creates the perfect conditions for bacterial growth. Managing blood sugar is essential. Visit the dentist promptly if you develop dental symptoms.12

Summary

Gum boils, or dental abscesses, are pus-filled bumps that appear on the gums. They are usually a sign of bacterial infection due to poor oral hygiene.

Contact a dentist if you develop a gum boil. You'll need treatment to stop the infection from spreading and to relieve symptoms. Treatment may involve draining the abscess, taking antibiotics, or having a root canal.

You can help prevent gum boils by brushing and flossing daily, seeing your dentist for regular checkups, and quitting smoking.

11 Sources Cited
Last updated on October 3, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Maurer, J. “What causes large bumps on your gums?” Longmont Complete Dentistry. 2019.
  2. Offenback, M. “Types of Tooth Abscesses.” Wekiva Dental. 2022. Yousefi. Y., et al. “Periodontal Abscess.” StatPearls. 2022. 
  3. Shweta, P. “ Dental abscess: A microbiological review.” Dental Research Journal. 2013. 
  4. Huynh, N., et al. "Rinsing with Saline Promotes Human Gingival Fibroblast Wound Healing In Vitro." PLoS One. 2016.
  5. Kanno, T., et al. "Adjunctive antimicrobial chemotherapy based on hydrogen peroxide photolysis for non-surgical treatment of moderate to severe periodontitis: a randomized controlled trial." Scientific Reports. 2017.
  6. Mali, A., et al. "Comparative evaluation of 0.1% turmeric mouthwash with 0.2% chlorhexidine gluconate in prevention of plaque and gingivitis: A clinical and microbiological study." Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. 2012.
  7. Nagpal, M., et al. "Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview." Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine. 2013. 
  8. Thosar, N., et al. "Antimicrobial efficacy of five essential oils against oral pathogens: An in vitro study." European Journal of Dentistry. 2013. 
  9. Xu, J., et al. "The effect of eugenol on the cariogenic properties of Streptococcus mutans and dental caries development in rats." Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2013.
  10. Zamirah, Z., et al. “Anti-Bacterial Activity of Cinnamon Oil on Oral Pathogens.” The Open Conference Proceedings. 2013.
  11. "Periodontal (Gum) Disease." National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 2022.
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