What are the main causes of itchy gums?

causes of itchy gums

Last Updated on October 24, 2022 by Dr Gustavo Assatourians DDS

Generally, when talking about oral health, we mention the prevention of tooth decay; however, it is also very important to pay attention to the gums since they support the teeth and keep the root and nerves protected. We want to prevent the causes of itchy gums by maintaining good oral hygiene. Sometimes, we are not attentive to symptoms indicating that something is not right, such as inflammation, bleeding, and itching. They are the typical signs of gum disease. There are many causes. We will first discuss the sensation of itchy gums and how to treat it.

What are the different causes of itchy gums?

Gums are the soft tissue that provides a seal around the teeth. Healthy gums are essential to protecting your teeth, and itching is often a sign that bacteria has built up between the teeth and gums. Therefore, it is necessary to find out what is causing this accumulation in conjunction with your dentist since it can be a sign of a serious problem.

Brushing technique

Sometimes in the quest to keep our teeth clean, too much pressure may be used when brushing both the teeth and gums. The gums are made up of delicate tissue, so brushing incorrectly could damage them. In fact, aggressive brushing irritates the gums, which can cause a serious infection. When you brush, be sure to use gentle, circular motions to massage and clean your teeth and gums. Although many people use a rocking motion, this motion can irritate and damage the gums, making them sore and likely to bleed or recede.

Another important recommendation is the type of brush you choose, implying the shape and hardness of the bristles since each person should use the most suitable type for an average cleaning.

Flossing technique

woman-flossing-teeth

 

The importance of flossing every day has been repeatedly pointed out as it helps remove plaque from the places a toothbrush can’t reach. To make sure this habit isn’t causing your gums to swell or bleed, gently use the floss between the teeth. Instead of forcing it between your teeth, carefully slide it up and down, following the curve of each tooth.

 

 

Home bleaching

In some communities, certain customs are passed down through generations. One  is the use of peroxide for home whitening; however, if it is not prepared properly and there is no knowledge of the oral health problems it can generate, it is better to refrain from practicing it. This solution can cause irritation when it comes into contact with the gums due to the poor adaptation of the whitening trays or not having the requisite skill. To avoid these and other problems, it is best to get professional advice from a dentist who will indicate the right  tools and impart sufficient information to continue performing this practice.

Gum Injuries

causes-of-itchy-gumsTraumatic injuries to the mouth are common and can cause pain, discomfort, and itching. Sharp, rough, or hot substances will easily scratch, tear, and damage the gums. It can be the result of a physical injury during the practice of a sport or simply due to other conditions such as bruxism or other behaviors (vaping, smoking, and inhaling), which cause headaches, jaw pain, irritation, and itching. The lesions may not be painful at first, but they allow bacteria to enter the deeper structures of the gums, teeth, and jaw, thereby engendering infection.

Plaque Buildup

Plaque is a colorless, sticky substance that contains bacteria. It forms over time on the surface of teeth and under the gums, regardless of good dental hygiene. As plaque builds up and hardens, it creates a layer called tartar that only a dentist can remove.

When bacteria coat the teeth and gums, it triggers a response by the body’s immune system, which sends special cells to damaged or infected tissue to help fix the problem. However, in their job to repair damage or infection, immune cells cause inflammation that can destroy gum tissue.

Unclean teeth and gums lead to plaque buildup, leading to sensitivity, itching, or bad breath as bacteria build-up. Over time, this buildup can lead to gum disease.

Gingivitis

According to the CDC, 47.2% of Americans age 30 and older have some type of periodontal (gum) disease. While most people with gum disease have the less severe form, called gingivitis, between 5% and 15% have the more serious periodontitis.

When people do not practice proper dental hygiene, bacteria in the mouth form plaque on the teeth. These bacteria can cause inflammation, resulting in red, swollen, or bleeding gums. For many people with gingivitis, this inflammation is not painful. If gingivitis is caught early, it can be reversed and cured with proper oral hygiene. But if left untreated, gingivitis can worsen and ultimately lead to tooth loss.

So, gingivitis is an inflammation that develops on the gums after an infection from plaque buildup. It develops slowly over time, usually without symptoms. However, once inflammation begins, you may notice these symptoms:

  • swollen tissue
  • dark red or purplish gums
  • gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss
  • bad breath

Your body releases histamine, a chemical that communicates with the immune system when tissues are inflamed, creating a response that causes itching and swelling.

Allergic reactions

As with inflammation, your body fights allergic reactions by releasing histamines, which causes allergy symptoms like itching and swelling. These include food, seeds, medicines, and pets. Even seasonal allergies like hay fever can cause itchy gums.

Dry mouth

Xerostomia is dryness of the mouth as a consequence of a decrease or absence of saliva secretion under normal conditions. It is not a disease but a symptom that occurs in various pathologies as a secondary effect from food intake or the decreased function of the salivary glands.

Saliva is an important indicator of health and reflects the current condition of the body. It is a clear, transparent, aqueous, tasteless, odorless, and colorless viscous fluid that under normal conditions has a pH of 6 to 7. It is secreted by different glands distributed in the mouth. The most common signs and symptoms of xerostomia are:

  • Viscosity
  • Sticky, foamy consistency
  • Difficulty speaking and swallowing
  • Dry lips, tongue, and mucous membranes
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Traumatic oral injuries or fissures
  • Plucked tongue, among others

When no action is taken to manage this condition, the pH of the saliva increases, leading to bacterial growth and the risk of caries.

Hormonal changes

Hormones play a prominent role in the development of gum disease and other oral problems. Hormone surges caused by puberty, birth control, and pregnancy increase blood flow to the gums, causing inflammation in the tissues around the teeth. As with other causes of inflammation, swelling can cause pain, tenderness, or itching.

How can you treat irritated gums?

Currently, there are a few methods for treating itchy gums. Some can be managed at home while others are indicated by the dentist such as medications and procedures:

  • Perform proper oral hygiene: brush your teeth at least twice a day, and use dental floss and mouthwash.
  • Habits and diet: avoid smoking and inhaling toxic substances; eat a balanced diet rich in vitamin C and calcium, and drink water after eating food.
  • Ice cubes: when using ice cubes, the cold should help reduce the itching of the gums. Incidentally, if you have a dry mouth, ice contributes to the production of saliva.
  • Antihistamines: since histamine is produced in those with allergies, these medications will minimize the itching.
  • Dental protectors: to avoid hurting the teeth while grinding due to an injury or at night when bruxism occurs.
  • Plaque scraping: When you visit the dentist for this condition, you may have tartar and calculus removed with specialized equipment.
  • Aroot lysate: it is a specialized procedure performed by the dentist after scaling when there is too much tartar to smooth the tooth and prevent more plaque from sticking.
  • Laser: This procedure removes plaque and tartar and can be an effective treatment when added to traditional scaling and planing.

How to prevent gum irritation

Gum infections can cause gum disease, which when complicated, spreads rapidly and generates other diseases. Some recommendations to protect your oral health are:

toothbrush-and-toothpaste

  • Brush and floss twice a day
  • Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and exams
  • Eat a healthy diet, limiting foods high in sugar or acid
  • Protect  teeth with a fluoride varnish
  • Quit smoking or chewing tobacco
  • If you have diabetes or a condition that compromises your immune system, be more careful than normal with hygiene habits.

 

 

When should you see the dentist?

Taking into account the recommendations of the ADA, it is advised to schedule two consultations a year with a dentist as a prevention method. However, if you have inflammation, pain, redness, or itching. It is better to go for an immediate consultation so the dentist can evaluate and diagnose the conditions of your oral health and provide effective treatment.

Contact us

If you have any questions about this or other topics, you can contact us at Channel Island Family Dental as well as our facebook page. We look forward to your visit and we will make a timely diagnosis. Our dentists in Oxnard, Saint Paula, Venture, Newbury Park and Port Hueneme will be able to guide you towards the best treatment to take care of your health and give you back your best smile.

Bibliography

1.  Zimlich, R. BSN; Piracha, K. MD. Common Causes and Treatment for Itchy Gums. Verywellhealth (Internet). Published on July 19, 2022; consulted on: Sep 22, 2022. Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/itchy-gums-5223667

2.  Parker, H., Baby, D. Gum Problem Basics: Sore, Swollen, and Bleeding Gums. WebMD (Internet). Published on April 22, 2022; consulted on: Sep 22, 2022. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/gum-problem-basics-sore-swollen-and-bleeding-gums

3.  Holland, K.; Marcin, J. Itchy Gums. Healthline (Internet). Published on Aug 23, 2017; consulted on: Sep 22, 2022. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/itchy-gums

4.  Sissons, C.; Frank, C. What’s to know about itchy gums? MedicalNewsToday (Internet). Published on Sep 29, 2017; consulted on: Sep 22, 2022. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319565#outlook

 

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