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