Updated on February 9, 2024
7 min read

7 Causes of Swollen Gums Around One Tooth, Treatment Tips

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The gingiva, or gums, are pink tissue lining your upper and lower jaws. They hold your teeth in place. With poor dental hygiene, harmful bacteria can infect the gums. This can lead to swollen, red, and bleeding gums.

Gum inflammation is painful and can be a warning sign of gum disease (periodontal disease). Diseased gums can lead to tooth decay and tooth loss if left untreated. 

Gingivitis inflammation of the gums dental 3D illustration

This article explains the reasons why your gum may be swollen around one tooth. It also discusses common medical treatments and how to relieve pain and promote healing at home. 

If you’ve had an inflamed gum for more than a few days, see a dentist to determine the cause.

What Causes Swollen Gums in General and Around One Tooth? 

The most common causes of swollen gums include a tooth abscess, gum disease, and poor dental hygiene. There may also be food stuck around the tooth. 

Brushing or flossing too forcefully can also cause swollen gums. A more gentle brushing technique can solve this.

Here are the main causes of a swollen gum around a single tooth:

Poor Dental Hygiene

Good oral hygiene is necessary to ensure food debris don’t get trapped under your gums. Trapped food debris can cause plaque buildup and make your gum swollen around one tooth. 

In addition to swollen gums, poor dental hygiene can cause:

  • Bad breath
  • Red or bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth

Brushing your teeth and flossing may help dislodge the food debris. If you’re unable to reduce the swelling within a couple of days, call your dentist. Without treatment, it can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)

More than 47% of adults over age 30 have some form of gum disease.4 There are two main types of gum disease:

  • Gingivitisearly-stage gum disease causes red and swollen gums.
  • Periodontitisthis more severe form of gum disease may develop if gingivitis goes untreated. It causes gum tissue and bone levels to recede, which can lead to tooth loss.

Practicing good oral hygiene can help prevent gum disease. 

Abscessed Tooth

A tooth abscess (dental abscess) is a pocket of pus that forms inside the tooth from a bacterial infection. The gums surrounding this tooth will often appear red, inflamed, and swollen. Dental abscesses can also result from gum disease.

An abscessed tooth is often painful and can be severe. Symptoms include:

  • Salty taste in the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Swollen, red, and painful gums
  • Jaw or facial swelling
  • Heightened tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures

Seek professional dental treatment right away if you think you have a dental abscess.

Other Causes of Swollen Gums

Other factors that may cause swollen gums include:

Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatment can also cause inflamed gums. The technical term for this is oral mucositis — commonly known as “chemo-mouth.” 

Inflammation and sores can occur as a side effect of chemotherapy, usually in the first 5 to 10 days following treatment.

Tobacco Products

Tobacco is bad for your gums. Smokers have double the risk for gum disease compared to non-smokers.4

This is for two reasons:

  1. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels in the gums, which interferes with their ability to heal themselves or fight off infections.
  2. The restricted blood flow can also make smokers’ gums look pale pink and prevent bleeding while brushing. This masks symptoms, thereby delaying treatment and allowing infections to get worse.

Smokeless tobacco can also raise your risk for gum problems, including periodontitis.9

Hormonal Changes

Women are at higher risk for gum infections due to hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout their lives. The two main hormones linked to gum inflammation are estrogen and progesterone.

There are four major life stages where these changes occur:

  1. Puberty 
  2. Menstruation
  3. Pregnancy 
  4. Menopause

These events all cause an increase in blood flow to the gums. This makes the gums redder, more tender, and inflamed. The use of oral contraceptives also causes hormonal changes, which can affect the gums.

Canker Sores

Canker sores are painful ulcers that can form on the inside of the mouth, including the gums. 

The cause of canker sores is often unknown. Some risk factors include a weak immune system, hormonal changes, and dietary issues. 

Canker sore symptoms include:

  • Painful sore on tongue, gums, inside lips, palate, or inside the cheeks
  • Uncomfortable sensation prior to the appearance of the sores
  • Red or gray round-shaped sores

Medications

Certain medications are known to cause swollen gums. If a person takes medication for blood pressure control (like calcium channel blockers or seizure medication), they may experience gum swelling. 

Other medicines commonly known to cause swollen gums include:

  • Phenytoin (seizure medication)
  • Cyclosporine (immunosuppression medication)
  • Verapamil, Diltiazem (antihypertensive medications)

Other Oral Infections

Some other oral infections that can lead to gum swelling include:

  • Trench mouth — getting its name from World War I, trench mouth is a severe form of gingivitis. Symptoms include bleeding and inflamed gums, often covered with painful ulcers
  • Thrush — this is a fungal yeast infection that occurs in the mouth and throat. It’s transmissible but usually contracted by those with weakened immune systems, such as infants or those with HIV. 
  • Oral herpes — the herpes simplex virus, the cause of cold sores, can also cause an infection called gingivostomatitis. Symptoms last around 2 to 3 weeks and include sores or swelling in the mouth and gums. 
  • Strep bacteria and other germs — streptococcus and other bacteria can also cause gingivostomatitis. 
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease — this is common in children under 5 years old. Symptoms include mouth sores, skin rash, and fever or flu-like symptoms. It is highly contagious but usually not serious.

How to Heal Swollen Gums and Swollen Gums Around One Tooth

A variety of treatments can reduce gum inflammation. These include home remedies and professional treatments.

Home Remedies

Here’s how you can reduce swelling at home:

  • Brushing and flossing — carefully slide the floss between your teeth to remove stuck food particles and brush gently around the gum line.
  • Salt water — rinsing with a salt water solution has been shown to be an effective way to treat inflamed gums, canker sores, and other mouth wounds.8
  • Essential oils — some mouthwashes use essential oils such as thyme, peppermint, lemongrass, clove, and tea tree oil. Multiple studies have found that these mouthwashes can effectively reduce plaque and treat gingivitis.7,13,14
  • Compresses — using a warm compress can reduce gum pain. Use a cold compress to reduce gingival swelling.

Professional Treatments

Your dentist will start by asking questions about when the symptoms began. They may order an X-ray and blood tests to check for further infection. 

Professional dental treatments may include:

  • Deep dental cleanings (tooth scaling and root planing)
  • Oral antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection
  • Surgery (in severe cases)

If the gums are seriously infected, you may need to see a gum specialist, or a periodontist.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, New Mouth’s resident dentist, “Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, respiratory issues and can be prevented by early diagnosis and treatment.”   

How to Prevent Swollen, Red, and Bleeding Gums

Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent swollen gums and promote dental health. Tips to avoid gum swelling and infection include:

  • Brush your teeth for 2 minutes at least twice daily 
  • Clean between teeth with floss, interdental brushes, or a water flosser
  • Avoid tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco
  • Maintain a nutritious diet rich in vegetables and fruits
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Manage other health conditions, like diabetes
  • Visit your dentist for regular exams and teeth cleanings

When to See a Dentist for Inflamed Gums

Call your dentist if you have swollen gums that don’t resolve after a couple of weeks. Also call them if you have symptoms of gum disease, dental abscess, or other oral health problems described above.

Swollen gums can be a sign of gingivitis or other oral problems. Severe ulcers, canker sores, or persistent gum soreness are all issues that require professional dental care.

Summary

Swollen gums around a single tooth is usually caused by poor dental hygiene, gum disease, or dental abscesses. Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent swollen gums and other dental issues.

Home remedies may help reduce swelling. See your dentist if your swollen gums last longer than a couple of weeks, or if you have symptoms of gum disease or an abscess.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
14 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
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).
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  2. Blanchard, S. “Chemo Mouth: It’s Real, Common and Manageable.” Endeavor, 2019
  3. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Canker Sores.” Cedars Sinai, 2019.
  4. Gum (Periodontal) Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  5. Hormones and Oral Health.” Cleveland Clinic, 2018.
  6. Thrush.” Cleveland Clinic, 2023.
  7. Dany, et al. “Efficacy of 0.25% Lemongrass Oil Mouthwash: A Three Arm Prospective Parallel Clinical Study.” Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, 2015.
  8. Huynh, et al. “Rinsing with Saline Promotes Human Gingival Fibroblast Wound Healing In Vitro.” Plos One, 2016.
  9. Kamath, et al. “Smokeless tobacco use as a risk factor for periodontal disease.” Frontiers in Public Health, 2014.
  10. Periodontitis.” Mayo Clinic, 2023.
  11. Tooth abscess.” Mount Sinai, nd.
  12. Why should I use interdental brushes?” National Health Service, 2021.
  13. Richards, D. “Effect of essential oil mouthwashes on plaque and gingivitis.” Evidence-Based Dentistry, 2017.
  14. Thosar, et al. “Antimicrobial efficacy of five essential oils against oral pathogens: An in vitro study.” European Journal of Dentistry, 2013.
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