Itchy Gums: Root Causes, Treatments, Prevention & Outlook
Itchy gums may be the result of several different conditions, like gingivitis, periodontal disease, or an allergic reaction. To identify the best treatment for your itchy gums, you first need to know the root cause of the itch.
Remember, your gums are an important part of oral health, just like your teeth!
In some cases, itchy gums may be a sign of a more serious problem.
You can work with your dentist to correct an itchy mouth, but there are also many home remedies you may find that make a big difference. Even flossing the right way and using a three-sided toothbrush can help prevent and reverse gum itching.
Causes of Itchy Gums
Discovering the possible causes of your itchiness are vital to treating your issue. The 9 most common causes of itchy gums are:
- Plaque buildup: Can irritate the gum line and lead to itchy gums. Even worse, plaque can turn into tartar, which is even harder to get off your teeth.
- Gingivitis: One of the earliest stages of gum disease. Even in this early stage, gums can experience itchiness.
- Periodontal disease (AKA gum disease or periodontitis): Can cause bleeding gums and tooth loss in addition to itchy gums. Periodontitis is a serious threat to your dental health (and your overall health), so this isn’t an issue you should ignore.
- Allergies: May irritate your gums. Food allergies (especially to raw fruits), seasonal allergies like hay fever, allergies to medications, or even pet allergies can cause oral allergy syndrome. If the roof of your mouth itches, this is a good sign it’s allergies.
- Dry mouth: An inability to make enough saliva is often accompanied by itchy gums. What causes dry mouth? Common causes of dry mouth include an allergy, a medication side effect, or a medical condition.
- Hormonal changes: Especially during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause, women may experience gum sensitivity and itching due to hormones.
- Gum injuries: You can sustain a gum injury while playing a sport, after wisdom teeth surgery or another dental procedure, or due to bruxism. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can trigger jaw pain, headaches, and itchy gums.
- Ill-fitting dental devices: If there is a gap between your dentures and your gums, an infection can grow without you knowing it. Typically, the bacterial infection will inflame your gums.
- E-cigarettes and vaping: Can irritate gums and cause itchiness.
Gums may also itch as a result of teething (during childhood or wisdom tooth eruption), viral infections like herpes or canker sores, or a tooth abscess.
Can sinusitis cause itchy gums? Yes, sinusitis can cause itchy gums due to extra mucus that can accelerate plaque production.
Sinusitis — inflammation of the sinuses — brings with it extra mucus. Since plaque is made up of bacteria, mucus, and other particles, it may cause more plaque to form on your teeth. Plaque and its successor, tartar, can irritate gums and lead to itchiness.
This is a normal part of healing. For the best recovery results, avoid touching or scratching your gums while this is happening.
Symptoms Your Dentist May Look For
Your dentist will consider the symptoms that occur along with your itchy gums to identify the root cause.
If your itchy gums are caused by gum disease, other symptoms may include:
- Gums that are swollen, red, or tender
- Bleeding gums — when brushing, flossing, or eating
- Receding gum line — when gums pull away from teeth
- Pus in between your teeth and gums
- Mouth sores
- Loose teeth
- Chronic bad breath
If your itchy gums are caused by allergies, you’ll probably have itching on the roof of your mouth.
If your itchy gums are caused by dry mouth, you may have low saliva production and thick-textured saliva.
If your itchy gums are caused by a gum or tooth abscess, they’ll likely be accompanied by painful swelling, redness, and aching in your gums or teeth.
Treatments for Itchy Gums
For allergies: Your dentist may prescribe antihistamines for allergy-related itchy gums.
For tartar buildup: A root planing and scaling with a dentist or periodontist can address plaque and tartar buildup. You may also be prescribed a lasering for extra tartar removal.
For injuries: Athletes and active patients should wear a mouthguard to prevent injuries that can cause itchy gums. You can get a custom-fitted mouthguard from your dentist.
For sinusitis: Your dentist may refer you to an ENT for recurrent sinus problems. He or she may also recommend a nasal spray to clear your sinuses.
Itchy Gums Home Remedies & Prevention
1. Good Oral Hygiene
Dental hygiene practices go a long way in preventing issues that can lead to itchy gums. Here are the basics:
- Brush your teeth with a high quality toothpaste at least twice a day. A good rule of thumb is to brush for two minutes after every sugary food eaten.
- Flossing is paramount to dental care.
- Mouthwash is also a safe method of preventing plaque buildup and gum disease. I’d suggest an alcohol-free mouthwash for best results.
- Don’t skip your teeth cleanings, which should be scheduled every 6 months at the least.
Using the right toothbrush is important. A triple-sided toothbrush offers the best offense against plaque. Only a three-headed toothbrush can cover every angle, even for people with great brushing habits.
If brushing after every meal is inconvenient, simply rinsing your mouth after meals is less effective, but still cuts down on bacteria growing in your mouth.
2. No Tobacco, Smoking, or Vaping
If you smoke (anything), use tobacco, or vape, you’ll need to quit to address your itchy gums.
Along with all the other health problems it causes, smoking often irritates the gums.
Tobacco interferes with the blood flow to your gums, which means gums take longer to heal.
Quitting smoking isn’t easy. But it is essential to good oral health.
3. Salt Water Rinse
A highly saturated salt water rinse may relieve itchy gums or other gum irritation.
For an easy, effective salt water rinse for your gums:
- Mix a spoonful of salt in one cup of room temperature water.
- Swish it around your mouth, making sure to reach the corners of your mouth.
- Spit it out into the sink after about 30 seconds.
- Repeat 3-5 times each day.
4. Ice Cubes
Cooling the gums by sucking on ice cubes can numb discomfort and reduce gum itchiness.
5. Dietary Changes
When you do eat these triggering foods, rinse your mouth with water immediately afterwards, then brush about an hour later to prevent additional plaque buildup.
If you or your doctor suspect you have oral allergy syndrome (OAS), avoid eating raw produce. When you do eat raw fruits or vegetables, peel them first.
A 3-Sided Toothbrush to Prevent Gum Disease?
It’s almost impossible to reach every angle needed to fight plaque and gum disease that can cause itchy gums. Fortunately, new technology has made the fight a lot easier.
Using three distinct brush heads works teeth from three different angles at the same time.
A recent review concluded that three-headed toothbrushes worked marginally better than single-headed toothbrushes when a person brushed their own teeth. But, the triple-headed toothbrush was significantly more effective when a caregiver brushed a person’s teeth.
Although a dentist could effectively remove plaque from a child’s teeth with both a three-headed and traditional toothbrush, the child’s mother had much better success with the triple-headed toothbrush in a 2011 study.
Less plaque in under half the time? Seems like an easy answer to me. Use a three-sided toothbrush to defend against itchy gums!
Itchy Gums with Braces
Braces may cause gum irritation, especially at first. Follow these tips to prevent itching and ensure healthy gums with braces:
- Floss well with a floss threader or water flosser designed to clean around braces.
- Brush for 2 minutes, then make sure your brackets look clean (as well as your teeth).
- After you brush, rinse your mouth out with mouthwash to further reduce the risk of gum disease.
Trying to get relief from irritated gums after getting braces? Gargling salt water or gently sucking on an ice cube are two safe and easy home remedies for itchy gums in people with braces.
When to See Your Dentist or Doctor
You should see your dentist (or doctor) about itchy gums if:
- You experience itchy gums and/or related symptoms for 3 days with no relief
- Your itchy gums are accompanied by bleeding, painful gums (signs of gum disease)
- You are also experiencing very bad breath (could be caused by gum disease or an abscess)
- You have severe pain or tenderness in your teeth or gums (could be caused by gum disease or an abscess)
- You have recurring symptoms of oral allergy symptoms, like itching and/or swelling of the face, throat, mouth, or tongue after eating raw produce
Looking to the Future
Most causes of itchy gums, like allergies or plaque buildup, can be corrected by your dentist and/or simple home remedies. By following a healthy diet, practicing good oral hygiene, and using a three-sided toothbrush, you may be able to prevent itchy gums in the future.
Other helpful home remedies for itchy gums include a salt water rinse, ice cubes, and quitting your smoking, vaping, or tobacco habit.
However, if you experience itchiness in your gums due to periodontal disease or a tooth abscess, you should seek dental treatment right away to avoid dangerous complications.
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