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Updated on September 14, 2022

6 Causes of Itchy Gums - Treatments & Prevention

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Why are My Gums Itchy?

Itchy gums can be frustrating and uncomfortable, and they are more common than you think. 

There are many reasons why your gums may itch, from allergic reactions to dry mouth. In some cases, an itchy mouth can signify a more severe issue like gum disease, which, if left untreated, causes tooth loss.

Practicing good oral hygiene is essential for preventing gum problems. Regular brushing and flossing help remove bacteria and plaque that cause itching around the teeth and gums. Also, attend routine dental check-ups to identify and treat issues before they become serious.1

If you’re experiencing mouth discomfort, visit a dentist. They can determine the cause and recommend effective treatment.  

close up shot of lower half of mans face focusing on pain on teeth

6 Causes of Itchy Gums 

Here are some potential causes of gum itching: 

1. Plaque, tartar and gingivitis

Plaque is the most common cause of itchy gums. It’s a mixture of bacteria and food debris that forms a sticky, colorless film on teeth. If plaque remains on your teeth, it will harden into tartar. The bacteria in plaque and tartar attack the gums, which causes inflammation and itchiness.

If plaque builds up on the teeth, it can lead to gingivitis or gum inflammation. This is the first stage of gum disease.2

Other Symptoms

  • Teeth that feel fuzzy
  • Gum sensitivity
  • Bleeding
  • Bad breath 

2. Allergies

Sensitivity and allergic reactions can cause itchy gums. You may be sensitive to certain foods, medications, or animals.

An itchy mouth may be part of an oral allergy syndrome. People with asthma or hay fever are more prone to this condition, which causes itching and swelling of the mouth, tongue, or face.3

Other Symptoms

  • Tingling sensation on the mouth or face
  • Hives
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting

3.   Hormonal changes

The teeth and gums are vulnerable to hormonal fluctuations. As a result, you may experience itchy gums during hormonal changes, such as during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.

Puberty can reduce blood flow to the teeth and gums. This sometimes leads to itching. Pregnant people, however, can develop pregnancy gingivitis.3

Some people also experience itchy gums while starting or stopping birth control medications.

Usually, symptoms ease as hormones adjust and self-regulate.

Other Symptoms

  • Tender gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Tooth sensitivity 

4.   Dry mouth

Your mouth needs saliva to wash away plaque and bacteria and help with digestion. If you don’t produce enough saliva, your oral health suffers, and your gums may become dry and itchy.

Dry mouth (xerostomia) has several causes, including dehydration, medications, and smoking. Certain health conditions like diabetes can also contribute to dry mouth.4

Other Symptoms

  • Thick and stringy saliva
  • Bad breath
  • Dry, sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing, speaking, or swallowing
  • Grooves or fissures in the tongue 

5.   Trauma

Gum trauma or injuries can cause itching. This trauma may result from physical injuries sustained while playing sports, vigorously brushing or flossing, or using ill-fitting dental devices.

Certain behaviors can also cause gum trauma. Teeth grinding (bruxism) erodes tooth enamel and causes the gum line to recede and itch. Smoking and vaping can also cause the gums to become irritated and itchy.5

Other Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Mouth irritation 

6.   Viral infections

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) and coxsackievirus can lead to gingivostomatitis. This inflammation of the gums and lips causes highly contagious, itchy blisters and sores. Coxsackievirus is most common in children under 6. 

Many people with the condition don’t have symptoms. Others, however, become quite sick.6

Other Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Mouth blisters
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Fluid-coated tonsils 

How to Stop Itchy Gums

Treatment for itchy gums depends on the cause. In some cases, home remedies help, while others require professional dental care.

Home Remedies

Besides practicing good oral hygiene, the following home remedies may ease itchy gums:

  • Tea tree oil — this popular essential oil has antiseptic properties that support oral health. In a 2020 study, researchers compared it to chlorhexidine mouthwash and found both treatments effectively reduced gingivitis symptoms.7
  • Probiotics — take probiotics as a dietary supplement or eat fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt. These bacteria help restore balance to the oral microbiome, resulting in healthier teeth and gums.8
  • Baking soda — sodium bicarbonate is a popular toothpaste alternative that helps remove plaque. Rinsing with a sodium bicarbonate solution could also reduce harmful bacteria. These include Viridans Streptococci, which causes cavities and gum disease.9
  • Saltwater rinses — using a lukewarm saltwater rinse twice daily can relieve gum itching and irritation. Make the mouthwash with 1 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water.
  • Ice cubes — Sucking on ice cubes or eating ice cream helps cool the gums and ease itching.
  • Lifestyle changes — smoking and vaping irritate the gums and lead to dry mouth. Therefore, quitting smoking helps. Avoiding hot, spicy, acidic, or sugary foods that irritate the gums can also help.
  • Antihistamines — if you have an allergic reaction to food or have seasonal allergies, antihistamine medication may reduce symptoms.4

Professional Treatments

If you’ve tried home remedies without success, visit your dentist for an assessment. They may suggest the following professional treatments:

  • Mouth guards — prevent gum trauma by wearing a mouthguard while playing sports. You can also wear a mouthguard while you sleep if teeth grinding is a problem.10
  • Plaque scaling — a dentist uses an electric tool to remove plaque and tartar accumulation plaque from below the gum line. This cannot be done by brushing alone.
  • Root planing — this procedure helps smooth tooth roots. It decreases inflammation and provides a new surface for the gums to reattach themselves firmly to the teeth.
  • Lasering — a dentist may also use a laser to remove plaque and tartar in addition to traditional scaling and planing.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, “dental health is linked to overall health. If you experience gum itching for 3 or more days, your dentist will be able to help determine the root cause and prevent it from causing issues in the future.”

Can Itchy Gums Indicate Something Serious?

Yes, sometimes itchy gums indicate gingivitis. You may have gingivitis if your gums are:

  • Swollen
  • Puffy
  • Dark red
  • Bleeding easily
  • Tender
  • Receding

Untreated, gingivitis can progress to gum disease (periodontal disease), a dangerous condition involving the gums, supporting bone, and ligaments.2

Healthy teeth need an adequate level of bone to support them. If gum disease destroys the bone, teeth can become mobile, increasing the risk of premature loss. 

Treating gingivitis is easier and less invasive than treating periodontal disease. A dentist can reverse it with early treatment. Therefore, if you notice any gingivitis symptoms, visit the dentist immediately.

Itchy Gum Prevention 

The best way to prevent itchy gums is to keep your teeth and gums clean and avoid irritants. 

Here are some tips to prevent itchy gums:

  • Practice good oral hygiene — the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing daily and brushing teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. If you can’t brush your teeth after eating, rinse your mouth to remove food particles and reduce bacterial growth.11
  • Attend regular dental appointments — see your dentist every 6 months for a checkup and deep cleaning.
  • Quit smoking — smoking increases the risk of gum disease, which can cause itchy gums. Therefore, quitting smoking helps.5
  • Limit irritating foods — some people find that certain acidic or sugary foods aggravate sensitive gums. Try keeping a food journal to see if specific foods trigger your symptoms.

Summary

Itchy gums have various causes, including plaque, gingivitis, trauma, and allergies. Often, it's a result of poor dental hygiene. 

Home remedies, such as rinsing with tea tree oil or salt water and sucking on ice cubes, may ease symptoms. However, you may need professional treatment in more severe cases. 

You can prevent itchy, inflamed gums by brushing and flossing regularly and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms. If you think you have gingivitis, see a dentist for treatment.

11 Sources Cited
Last updated on September 14, 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, 2018
  2. Gingivitis.” Mayo Clinic, 2017
  3. The causes of itchy gums.” Dugger Dentistry
  4. Itchy gums? Here’s what it means.” My Redmond Dentist, 2020.
  5. Why are my gums itchy?” Rundle Dental
  6. Goldman, Ran D. "Acyclovir for herpetic gingivostomatitis in children." Canadian Family Physician,  2016
  7. Ripari, F., et al. "Tea tree oil versus chlorhexidine mouthwash in treatment of gingivitis: A pilot randomized, double blinded clinical trial." European Journal of Dentistry, 2020
  8. Allaker, R. P., et al. "Use of probiotics and oral health." Current Oral Health Reports, 2017
  9. Chandel, S., et al. "The effect of sodium bicarbonate oral rinse on salivary pH and oral microflora: A prospective cohort study." National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery, 2017
  10. "Bruxism (teeth grinding) - Diagnosis and treatment.” Mayo Clinic, 2017
  11. "Home oral care." The American Dental Association, 2020
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