When it comes to your dental health, it can be hard to know if you’re having an emergency or not, especially since certain symptoms can mean different things. Puffy gums are a great example: In some cases, you should get immediate care, while in others, you can wait. Having said that, it’s always a good idea to call a dentist if you notice puffy gums. That way, you’ll know what the source of the problem is and how to address it so you can maintain a healthy smile. Learn more below!
What Causes Puffy Gums and Are They an Emergency?
There are multiple reasons for puffy gums, some of which are an emergency, and some of which aren’t. The main situation that requires immediate care is a deep cavity and/or dental infection (aka abscess). This often leads to a pimple-like bump on the gums or puffiness in the lip or cheek. Without care, the infection can spread to other areas of the body, including the brain, and become very dangerous or even fatal in rare cases.
Here are some non-emergency causes of puffy gums:
- Poor oral hygiene and/or gum disease – If you don’t do well with brushing and flossing, you wind up leaving plaque and bacteria behind that can inflame your gums. Along with puffiness, bleeding and tenderness are also signs to watch for.
- Certain medications – The side effects of certain prescriptions like blood pressure medications or Dilantin (often prescribed for seizures) include puffy gums or an overgrowth of gum tissue.
- Diabetes – Diabetes is a risk factor for gum disease and increases the likelihood of inflammation, which leads to bleeding and puffiness.
- Pregnancy – Changes in hormones can also cause the gums to be puffy and bleed more easily. Unfortunately, you may notice these symptoms even if you have good oral hygiene habits.
How Can a Dentist Treat Puffy Gums?
If you notice puffy gums, call a dentist to schedule a checkup. After they’ve determined the source of the trouble, they’ll recommend the best treatment.
If you simply have gingivitis (the first stage of gum disease), they may recommend regular 6-month cleanings and improved oral hygiene at home. If you have more advanced gum disease, you may need periodontal therapy to improve your gum health, such as a deep cleaning (scaling and root planing), treatment with a soft-tissue laser, or topical antibiotics that are placed directly under the gumline.
If your puffy gums are due to hormonal changes, diabetes, or prescription medications, a dentist will often focus on improving your oral hygiene and may recommend extra cleanings to keep your gums healthier (for example, every 4 months instead of every 6).
Ultimately, it’s not a good idea to ignore any kind of dental issue, including puffy gums. By calling a dentist early on, they’ll determine the cause of the problem and let you know how to take care of it.
About the Author
Dr. Sheri McIntosh is a family dentist and graduate of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. She always keeps a close eye on her patients’ gums so she can find any problems early on and recommend the best treatment right away. If you’d like to know more about puffy gums or have any questions, you can reach Dr. McIntosh via her website.