You might not give much thought to your gums until there’s a problem. Itching, soreness, and inflammation in your gums can be distracting. You can’t talk, eat, or even breathe without involving these tissues.
This article will explore why your gums might itch and become sore and options to prevent and treat itchy gums.
Causes of Itchy Gums
Your gums contribute to the health of your teeth, mouth, and whole body. When they become damaged, your nerves send signals to your brain to report a problem.
Signals in the brain for pain and itching work so closely together that they can become hard to distinguish from one another. Below are some potential causes of itchy gums.
Traumatic injuries in the mouth are common. Sharp, rough, or hot substances can easily scratch, tear, and damage your gums. These injuries may not be painful at first, but they can allow bacteria to enter the deeper structures of the gums, teeth, and jaw and cause infection.
Plaque is the name for bacteria that form over the surface of teeth and gums over time, regardless of good dental hygiene. As plaque builds and hardens, it creates a harder coating called tartar that only a dentist can remove.
When bacteria coat your teeth and gums, it triggers an immune response in your body, which sends special cells to the damaged or infected tissues to help fix the problem. However, in their work to repair damage or infection, immune cells cause inflammation that can destroy gum tissue.
Uncleaned teeth and gums cause plaque buildup, leading to tenderness, itching, or bad breath as bacteria build. You might also feel a film form over your teeth and gums when they need to be cleaned.
A recurrent dry mouth is called xerostomia. It develops when the body does not produce enough saliva. It can be a side effect of medications like antidepressants or chemotherapy or a symptom of an autoimmune disease like Sjögren’s syndrome.
Saliva plays a vital role in maintaining gum health and washing away bacteria and other particles in the mouth. Without adequate saliva, bacteria can build up, and gums may become dry and prone to damage or injury.
Gingivitis is inflammation that develops in the gums after an infection from plaque buildup. It develops slowly over time, usually without symptoms. Once inflammation begins, however, you may notice symptoms like:
- Swollen gums
- Red gums
- Gums that bleed easily with brushing or flossing
Your body releases histamine, a chemical that communicates with the immune system when tissues are inflamed, creating an immune response that causes itching and swelling.
As with inflammation, your body combats allergic reactions by releasing histamines, which cause allergy symptoms like itching and swelling. Severe allergic reactions can lead to anaphylaxis, a response that can cause airway swelling and breathing problems.
Oral Allergy Syndrome
Oral allergy syndrome, or pollen food allergy syndrome, develops when pollen mixes with your food and triggers an allergic reaction. Birch pollen, grass pollen, and ragweed pollen are common allergens that can be found on foods like apples, oranges, and bananas.
People who develop this problem experience sudden symptoms like:
- Itching in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth, or throat
- Scratchy throat
- Itchy ears
Hormones play a prominent role in the development of gum disease and other oral problems. Hormone surges triggered by puberty, birth control, and pregnancy increase blood flow to the gums, causing inflammation in the tissues surrounding the teeth. As with other causes of inflammation, this swelling can cause pain, tenderness, or itching.
You should see a dentist if you have itching, pain, or inflammation in your gums. Early gingivitis affects about 90% of all adults and can be reversed if caught and treated early.
Your dental hygienist or dentist may manually remove plaque during a deep dental cleaning to treat your symptoms.
People with periodontal (gum) disease are at a higher risk of additional health problems, like heart disease, dementia, and diabetes. If you have ongoing issues with your teeth or gums, you may need to see your primary care provider to address underlying conditions contributing to your oral health.
When to See a Dentist
It’s a good idea to see a dentist twice yearly for a cleaning and oral examination. You may need care for problems like swelling or pain between your regular visits. Call your dentist or see your healthcare provider right away if you experience issues like:
- Gum bleeding that doesn’t stop
- Difficulty swallowing
- Breathing problems
Infections in your mouth or gums can indicate early signs of illness and quickly spread to become systemic problems. Here are some things you can do to protect your oral health:
- Brush and floss your teeth twice daily.
- See your dentist regularly for cleaning and examinations.
- Consume a healthy diet, limiting foods high in sugar or acid.
- Protect your teeth with a fluoride varnish.
- Quit smoking or using chewing tobacco.
If you have health problems like diabetes that may increase your risk of developing oral health problems, talk to your dentist or primary care provider about additional prevention strategies targeted at your condition.
Keeping your gums healthy is an important part of your oral health. Your gums secure your teeth in place and seal them off from bacteria. Poor oral hygiene can lead to oral health problems and symptoms like itching, pain, or severe illness. Make an appointment with a dentist if you develop these symptoms.
A Word From Verywell
Your gums are made of strong connective tissue but are also vulnerable to infection and injury. Swelling, pain, tenderness, and itching can develop because of a buildup of bacteria and other problems. Regular dental care and proper oral hygiene can help you protect the health of your gums and prevent irreversible damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to cure itchy gums?
Finding relief from itchy gums can vary depending on the cause. If an allergic reaction is causing the itching, treatment may be quick. Itching caused by poor hygiene, injuries, or hormonal shifts can take longer to address. The total time to resolve these issues will depend on the extent of the problem and how well you adhere to treatment and hygiene plans.
Is it normal to have itchy gums?
There is a lot of bacteria in your mouth, and even a day’s worth of plaque buildup can lead to itching. You should see your dentist for a full cleaning and examination if you have frequent or continuous itchy gums.
What is the best way to treat itchy gums?
It’s important to determine the cause of itchy gums before receiving treatment. Treating the itch can be complicated if you have an underlying condition or are taking a medication that is contributing to the problem. Itching caused by poor hygiene or allergies can be addressed quickly with strict cleaning and lifestyle or diet changes.