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Updated on July 13, 2022

Gum Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Home Remedies

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What is a Gum Infection?

A gum infection occurs when gum tissue is affected by harmful bacteria. These bacteria may have built up over time due to poor oral hygiene or other factors.

Infected gums can be a sign of advanced gum disease, or periodontitis. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and bone atrophy.

woman holding pills in her hands

Gum Infection Symptoms

Gum infections may present with any of the following symptoms:1, 2

  • Red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Discharge from gums (blood or pus)
  • Pain or bleeding while chewing or brushing your teeth
  • Gum recession (gum tissue pulling away from roots of teeth)
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Bad breath that doesn’t seem to go away
  • Changes in bite (how your teeth fit together)

What Causes Gum Infections?

The accumulation of gum-infecting bacteria often starts with poor oral hygiene.

Your mouth hosts numerous species of bacteria, some of which are harmful and comprise dental plaque, which can cause gum disease and cavities.3

Regular oral hygiene practices like brushing, flossing, and rinsing help manage these bacteria and remove plaque.1

Poor oral hygiene, however, can allow plaque to harden into tartar, which can no longer be removed by regular brushing at home.

This allows bacteria to build up and fester, as the tartar makes your teeth and gums harder to keep clean. These bacteria can then go on to damage and inflame your gums.1, 4

There are other risk factors for gum disease as well. Smoking is the most significant, and can hurt the effectiveness of gum disease treatment.1, 4 

Other risk factors include:1, 2

  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia), sometimes caused by certain medications
  • Crooked or misaligned teeth, which can make effective oral hygiene more difficult

When to See a Dentist 

If you experience persistent gum soreness or bleeding, or if you have an abscess, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.

The earlier gum disease is identified and treated, the easier treatment will be.

Diagnosis

To diagnose gum disease, your dentist will take X-rays to check your bone levels and examine your gums. They’ll measure the pockets around the gums to check if they are healthy or not.

They’ll also ask about your medical history, since you may have risk factors associated with gum disease, such as diabetes or a tobacco habit. If your dentist notices you have advanced gum disease, or periodontitis,  you might be referred to a gum specialist known as a periodontist.

Professional Treatments 

There are many treatments that general dentists, hygienists, and periodontitis available for gum disease. The kind of treatment will depend on your specific condition. Some treatment options include: 

  • Regular teeth cleaning
  • Deep teeth cleaning
  • Surgery to recontour the gums and/ or bones and remove tartar under the gums 
  • Antibiotics (systemic or localized) 
  • Incision and drainage in the case of some abscesses 
  • Tooth removal 

Any professional treatment will be most effective in combination with good oral hygiene. Failure to adequately brush or floss even after extensive professional treatment will lead to plaque and bacteria building up again.

Complications

Diseased gums, if left untreated, can lead to loss of teeth and bone tissue. Bacteria affecting your gums could also enter the bloodstream and affect other parts of your body.

There may be a link between advanced gum disease and systemic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. This may be because the bacteria that cause gum disease also cause systemic inflammation.5 

It’s important to remember that the mouth is connected to the body. So, maintaining a healthy mouth results in better overall health. 

Home Remedies for Gum Infections

If you’re concerned you may be suffering from gum disease, contact your dentist as soon as possible.

There are some things you can do at home in order to soothe sore gums and reduce inflammation until you receive professional dental care.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, works as an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent. Applying a turmeric paste, or a dental product made with turmeric, may provide some relief to your gums.6

Bee products such as manuka honey and propolis also have antimicrobial properties and can be easily applied to the gums.7, 8

Rinsing your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash or warm salt water may also help relieve inflamed gums.9, 10

However, none of these home remedies can replace professional attention, especially in cases of tartar buildup or severe gum disease. Poor oral hygiene will also reduce their effectiveness.

Preventing Gum Infections

The best way to prevent gum infections is to maintain consistent and effective oral hygiene. Brush, floss, and rinse your mouth regularly, and visit your dentist for regular checkups.2

If you smoke, cutting down or quitting will also help reduce your risk of gum disease. Maintaining a balanced diet low in refined carbohydrates can also improve your oral health.11

Summary

Gum infections occur when gum tissue becomes inflamed or damaged by oral bacteria. These bacteria can build up over time due to poor oral hygiene or other reasons.

Infected gums can be a sign of advanced gum disease, or periodontitis. In its most advanced stages, gum disease can result in tooth loss and other complications.

If you have symptoms that suggest a gum infection, see your dentist as soon as possible. Professional treatment can address the infection and help your gums heal and recover.

11 Sources Cited
Last updated on July 13, 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. Periodontal (Gum) Disease.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
  2. Gum Disease.” American Dental Association.
  3. Saini, Rajiv et al. “Periodontitis, a true infection.Journal of global infectious diseases vol. 1,2 : 149-50. doi:10.4103/0974-777X.56251
  4. Könönen, Eija et al. "Periodontitis: A Multifaceted Disease of Tooth-Supporting Tissues." Journal of clinical medicine vol. 8,8 , 1135. doi:10.3390/jcm8081135
  5. Bui, Fiona Q et al. "Association between periodontal pathogens and systemic disease." Biomedical journal vol. 42,1 , 27-35. doi:10.1016/j.bj.2018.12.001
  6. Pulikkotil, SJ and S Nath. “Effects of curcumin on crevicular levels of IL-1β and CCL28 in experimental gingivitis.” Australian Dental Journal vol. 60,3 : 317-327. https://doi.org/10.1111/adj.12340
  7. Safii, Syarida H et al. "Periodontal Application of Manuka Honey: Antimicrobial and Demineralising Effects In Vitro." International Journal of Dentistry, vol. 2017, Article ID 9874535, 8 pages, 2017. doi:10.1155/2017/9874535
  8. Bretz, Walter A et al. “The effectiveness of propolis on gingivitis: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 20,12 : 943-8. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0431
  9. Mythri, H et al. “The efficacy of antiseptic mouth rinses in comparison with dental floss in controlling interproximal gingivitis.” Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry vol. 1,1 : 31-5. doi:10.4103/2231-0762.86385
  10. Huynh, Nam Cong-Nhat et al. “Rinsing with Saline Promotes Human Gingival Fibroblast Wound Healing In Vitro.” PloS one vol. 11,7 e0159843. 21 Jul. 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0159843
  11. Woelber, JP, et al. “An oral health optimized diet can reduce gingival and periodontal inflammation in humans - a randomized controlled pilot study.” BMC Oral Health vol. 17,28 . https://doi.org/10.1186/s12903-016-0257-1
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