Gum Health: What’s That Itch About?

When it comes to gum health, most people know that a seeing some “pink in the sink” on a regular basis is not normal. Bleeding gums are often a sign of a bigger issue and should always be addressed, but what about itchy gums? While itchy gums don’t always signal an oral health problem, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the possible causes and treatments so you know whether it’s time to call your dentist.

Gums are the soft tissue that surround (and protect) your teeth. Itchy gums could be from an allergic reaction to something, but it also could be a sign that bacteria have built up between teeth and gums. A good dental hygiene routine is usually enough to prevent most issues, but in some cases, itching could be a sign of a more serious problem, like gum disease. If symptoms persist, a visit to your dentist is definitely in order.

Speaking of symptoms, here’s a look at some that you might encounter and what they could mean:

  • Itching that can be felt in your gums AND on the roof of your mouth may be an allergic reaction.
  • Red, irritated, or inflamed gums along with itching might be a sign of the first stages of gum disease.
  • Pain, aching, or swelling could be the result of an injury or tooth abscess.
  • Gums that bleed lightly for a short time, such as when you first start flossing, is normal. But if you notice your gums bleeding regularly, this may be a sign of bigger issue that needs to be addressed.

The most common cause of itchy gums is a plaque buildup on the teeth and gums. Plaque is the sticky stuff that can sometimes be found on teeth that contains bacteria. It’s this stuff that breaks down some of the simple sugars found in drinks and food. If plaque builds up and stays on teeth for too long, it can begin to harden and form tartar. This tough stuff can not be removed with floss or a toothbrush, and once it gets below your gum line, it can cause gums to become irritated and inflamed. This creates the early stages of gum disease, or gingivitis.

Other causes of itching gums include hormonal changes in women and girls, a healing injury in the mouth, bruxism (teeth grinding), or dry mouth. Less common causes of itchy gums include teething in younger children, eruption of wisdom teeth in young adults, canker sores, oral herpes or a viral infection.

Despite the cause, poor dental hygiene is usually at the root of all itchy gums. In order to help relieve gum itching and irritation, you can brush, floss and use an antibacterial mouthwash regularly. You can also try rinsing the mouth with a saltwater solution, or taking an over-the-counter antihistamine if itching is thought to be caused by an allergy. If itching persists, you should make an appointment to see your dentist, as it may be a sign of a larger oral health issue.

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