Many people deal with itchy gums. But such a simple inconvenience could be the first sign of a bigger problem that you need to solve right away.
What does it mean when your gums itch and bleed?
- Itchy gums could be the result of several different conditions or situations, such as gingivitis or an allergic reaction.
- Depending on the cause, there are several great treatment options for itchy gums, including easy home remedies.
- In any case, there are ways to prevent itchy gums, such as using a three-sided toothbrush and making sure you’re flossing correctly.
Itchiness of the gums is relatively common. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously because your dental health could be at risk.
Why do gums itch? 9 Causes of Itchy Gums
Here are the nine most common causes of itchy gums. Figuring out which possible cause is triggering the itchiness will help you know how to treat it.
- 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 is one of the earliest stages of gum disease. Even in this early stage, gums can experience itchiness.
- Periodontal disease (AKA gum disease) has some serious symptoms, like bleeding gums and tooth loss. One of the more minor symptoms is itchy gums, but it can incite an all-important trip to the dentist.
- 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 — when your mouth can’t make enough saliva — is often accompanied by itchy gums. What causes dry mouth? Usually, an allergy, a medication side effect, or a medical condition can trigger dry mouth.
- Hormonal changes can make your gums feel itchy. Especially during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause, women may experience gum sensitivity and itching.
- Gum injuries may result in itchy gums. You could sustain a gum injury while playing a sport, after wisdom teeth surgery, or due to bruxism. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can trigger jaw pain, headaches, and itchy gums.
- Ill-fitting dental devices could cause itchy gums. 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.
Can sinusitis cause itchy gums? Sinusitis — inflammation of the sinuses — brings with it extra mucus. Since plaque is made up of bacteria, mucus, and other particles, this extra mucus can accelerate plaque production. Plaque and its successor, tartar, can irritate gums and lead to itchiness.
Do gums itch when healing? The healing process after a gum injury, like a canker sore on your gums or after a tooth extraction, includes itchy gums. This is a normal part of healing, and you should avoid touching or scratching your gums while this is happening.
Symptoms that Often Accompany Itchy Gums
Probably the most alarming cause of itchy gums to see a dentist about ASAP is gum disease. Also known as periodontitis, it starts first as plaque buildup, then gingivitis, and finally advanced stages of gum disease. So it’s important to know the symptoms you should look out for.
What are the first signs of gum disease? Here are the gum disease symptoms that often accompany itchy gums:
- 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
Home Remedies and Prevention Strategies for Itchy Gums
However, there are a few things you can do at home to treat or prevent itchy gums.
Good Oral Hygiene
Make sure your dental hygiene practices are on point.
- 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.
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.
Quit Tobacco & All Forms of Smoking or Vaping
Along with all the other health problems it causes, smoking often irritates the gums. If you smoke, there are probably a whole host of dental health issues you need to address.
Chewing tobacco might be more likely to cause itchy gums than smoking it.
Also, e-cigarettes and vaping can result in just as much gum irritation as traditional smoking.
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.
Rinsing your mouth with salt water is a great way of relieving gum irritation.
Put a spoonful of salt in a cup of room temp water. Swish it around your mouth, making sure to reach the corners of your mouth. Spit it out, and the salt should fairly quickly alleviate some gum itchiness.
Cooling the gums can numb discomfort and reduce itching. Sucking on an ice cube can achieve just that.
The most common dietary change for healthier gums is to cut out sugars. Sugar feeds the bacteria that turn into plaque buildup.
However, there are some other foods that can trigger itchy gums:
- Acidic foods — 2018 research shows that acidic foods and drinks put you at high risk of dental erosion, which can contribute to itchy gums.
- Starchy foods — Bacteria feed off starch like sugar and get easily stuck in your teeth.
Protect Yourself Against Gum Disease: Use a 3-Sided Toothbrush
It’s almost impossible to reach every angle needed to fight plaque and gum disease. 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.
When I saw this next study, it made me smile. 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.
Less plaque and in under half the time? Seems like an easy answer to me. Use a three-sided toothbrush to defend against itchy gums!
Addressing Itchy Gums When You Have Braces
Rest assured, gum irritation is normal when you first get braces. However, prolonged itchy gums may be caused by a problem I talked about above.
Whether it’s plaque buildup or hormonal changes, follow these tips to ensure healthy gums with braces:
- Make sure you floss well with special floss designed to clean around braces.
- After brushing the recommended two minutes, make sure your brackets look clean as well as your teeth.
- After you brush, rinsing your mouth out with mouthwash or even water should further reduce the risk of gum disease.
Gargling salt water or gently sucking on an ice cube are two safe and easy methods of quick itch relief.
It’s time to see a dentist when…
If you experience itchy gums and/or related symptoms for three days with no relief, it’s time to see your dentist.
Your oral healthcare provider can work with you to identify what is triggering your itchy gums and figure out how to treat it.
- Itchy gums can be caused by gum disease, allergies, hormonal changes, and other conditions.
- Good oral hygiene, limiting sugar in your diet, and quitting smoking are three ways to treat and prevent itchy gums.
- If you have itchy gums for three days without relief, see your dentist right away.
- Huilgol, P., Bhatt, S. P., Biligowda, N., Wright, N. C., & Wells, J. M. (2019). Association of e-cigarette use with oral health: a population-based cross-sectional questionnaire study. Journal of Public Health, 41(2), 354-361. Full text: https://academic.oup.com/jpubhealth/article-abstract/41/2/354/4999229?redirectedFrom=PDF
- Tos, M., & Mogensen, C. (1984). Mucus production in chronic maxillary sinusitis: a quantitative histopathological study. Acta oto-laryngologica, 97(1-2), 151-159. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6689823
- Borojevic, T. (2012). Smoking and periodontal disease. Materia socio-medica, 24(4), 274. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633395/
- Muthukrishnan, A., & Warnakulasuriya, S. (2018). Oral health consequences of smokeless tobacco use. The Indian journal of medical research, 148(1), 35. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6172921/
- Atuegwu, N. C., Perez, M. F., Oncken, C., Thacker, S., Mead, E. L., & Mortensen, E. M. (2019). Association between regular electronic nicotine product use and self-reported periodontal disease status: Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Survey. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(7), 1263. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6479961/
- Naderi, N. J., Semyari, H., & Elahinia, Z. (2015). The impact of smoking on gingiva: a histopathological study. Iranian journal of pathology, 10(3), 214. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4539769/
- Huynh, N. C. N., Everts, V., Leethanakul, C., Pavasant, P., & Ampornaramveth, R. S. (2016). Rinsing with saline promotes human gingival fibroblast wound healing in vitro. PloS one, 11(7). Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4956236/
- Gupta, P., Gupta, N., Pawar, A. P., Birajdar, S. S., Natt, A. S., & Singh, H. P. (2013). Role of sugar and sugar substitutes in dental caries: a review. ISRN dentistry, 2013. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3893787/
- de Almeida Bastos, I. H., Alves, E. S., de Sousa, C. D., Martins, G. B., de Jesus Campos, E., & Daltro, C. (2018). Prevalence of risk factors for oral diseases in obese patients referred for bariatric surgery. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 149(12), 1032-1037. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30336938
- Miranda-Rius, J., Brunet-Llobet, L., & Lahor-Soler, E. (2018). The Periodontium as a Potential Cause of Orofacial Pain: A Comprehensive Review. The open dentistry journal, 12, 520. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6110068/
- Ashkenazi, M., Salem, N. F., Garon, S., & Levin, L. (2015). Evaluation of Orthodontic and Triple-headed Toothbrushes When Used Alone or in Conjunction with Single-tufted Toothbrush in Patients with Fixed Lingual Orthodontic Appliances. A Randomized Clinical Trial. The New York state dental journal, 81(3), 31-37. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26094361
- Azrak, B., Barfaraz, B., Krieter, G., & Willershausen, B. (2004). Effectiveness of a three-headed toothbrush in pre-school children. Oral health & preventive dentistry, 2(2). Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15646943
- Kalf‐Scholte, S. M., Van der Weijden, G. A., Bakker, E. W. P., & Slot, D. E. (2018). Plaque removal with triple‐headed vs single‐headed manual toothbrushes—a systematic review—. International journal of dental hygiene, 16(1), 13-23. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28544459
- Oliveira, L. B., Zardetto, C. G. D. C., de Oliveira Rocha, R., Rodrigues, C. R. M. D., & Wanderley, M. T. (2011). Effectiveness of triple-headed toothbrushes and the influence of the person who performs the toothbrushing on biofilm removal. Oral health & preventive dentistry, 9(2). Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21842016