Written By Kevin Kerfoot And Jennifer Raskin / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
There’s a good chance that if you have a gum boil, you aren’t oblivious to it. If you notice any swollen bumps full of pus on your gums, you have a gum boil. Even though they’re hard to ignore, you can’t put off making an appointment with your dentist if you see what you suspect to be a gum boil, or if you have any of the telltale symptoms.
Why Do Gum Boils Form?
Also known as abscesses, gum boils indicate an overwhelming amount of bad bacteria out of control in your mouth. If you’ve previously been diagnosed with gum disease, or have recently had some type of dental surgery, you’re more likely to find gum boils.
With gum disease, it makes it easier for plaque and food to get lodged into those open pockets in your gums. The bacteria overgrows and takes over. With surgery, you mouth is also vulnerable during the healing process.
Regardless of how your gum boils formed, contacting your dentist is top priority in getting your oral health back on track. You can’t just sit and suffer silently as gum boils leave the area feeling tender, and quite often, painful.
Types of Gum Boils
With gum boils, there are two kinds you might have. One is called a periodontal abscess. This is the more common type which forms inside the gum tissue. Thankfully, it is easier to handle. You will usually see and feel signs of it forming and be able to notify your dentist.
But with the other type of gum boil, periapical abscess, it’s a bit more serious. It develops in your tooth. Regular dental checkups can monitor for something like this though it is quite likely if you have one, you feel tenderness or pain in the area.
Not having it taken care of can cause the bacteria to spread throughout your body, causing major damage. It may also lead to long-term damage for your teeth. Your dentist may insist on performing a root canal to resolve this type of gum boil.
Waiting is the worst thing you can do if you suspect a gum boil. You will likely be given antibiotics to treat it though further dental procedures may also be required to help you be rid of them.
What Symptoms May Indicate a Gum Boil?
Gum boils indicate that you have an infection. Infections should always be treated promptly anywhere they occur to keep your health and wellness in good standing. As always, if you have pain in your mouth, it is something you should not delay having inspected by your dentist to rule out gum boils or even another serious condition.
Perhaps most alarming of all is that around half of all Americans over the age of 30 have a more advanced form of gum disease. Given these statistics and knowing how gum boils tend to affect those with gum disease more commonly, now is the best time to work on your gum health. You’ll avoid gum boils as well as other unpleasant dental problems.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may have a gum boil. And even if you don’t, these are all legitimate reasons to see your dentist:
- Pus-filled bump you can see on your gums
- Pain and tenderness
- Swelling of the gums
- Bad breath
These symptoms all bear the hallmark of typical infections and that’s because a gum boil is a type of infection that is found in the gums. You’ll want to take care of it quickly because it could lead to losing a tooth. Even more frightening, if it spreads through your body, it can be life-threatening when bacteria like that is on the loose in your blood.
A gum boil can make you sick
Gum boils and dental abscesses - as well as any oral infection - does have a chance of spreading bacteria into other parts of your body, and the pus from a gum boil has even been known to spread to the brain.
Chronic and untreated gum boils can lead to life-threatening sepsis that requires medical treatment and hospitalization – especially if the infection occurs in a child. This is because the inside of a gum boil is a combination of anaerobic gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria which cause pus formation and inflammation.
If the dental abscess starts to spread into your face, seek immediate medical care.
How Dentists Treat Gum Boils
Fortunately, if you hurry to your dentist, you’ll soon get some relief. Depending on the type and extent of your gum boil, you may need several different methods for treating gum boils engaged simultaneously.
Since most gum boils are due to dental abscesses, dentists treat them several different ways including with antibiotics, tooth extractions, and root canal therapy. A deep cleaning may be recommended if the gum boil is due to gum disease.
As gum boils are caused by bacteria, the first thing your dentist will do is prescribe antibiotics. You may receive them as injections into your gums or in the form of pills. Sometimes, you will receive both.
With prescription antibiotic pills to treat gum boils, you must take all of them - even after you are feeling better and the gum boil has disappeared - to help clear out any lingering bacteria and prevent it from coming back.
Antibiotics do not cause gum boils
If you are allergic to any specific types of antibiotics you should let your dentist or doctor know, but antibiotics do not typically cause gum boils. They are usually used to treat them, reducing the extent of infection and inflammation prior to a root canal treatment because they make the endodontic therapy more comfortable.
Deep cleaning methods
The reason those that have gum disease or tooth decay are more prone to gum boils is because the bad bacteria can throw off balance in your oral microbiome and get under the gums. Once it takes a hold in there, it will require deep cleaning methods to get rid of it.
Additionally, a scale and root planing might be needed to get the plaque and tartar away and allow your gums to get better. These things aren’t pleasant, but afterward, if you take good care of your oral hygiene, you will be less likely to ever have gum boils come back to haunt you again.
A gum boil will not go away on its own
The cause of the infected gum boil must be treated and will not go away on its own. Most gum boils do follow a cycle of swelling and drainage so it’s possible to see one today and not tomorrow, but the underlying cause is still present.
In some situations, your dentist will have to employ drainage techniques with gum boils. This means they’ll extract the pus from the gum boil. You will soon feel better after your dentist drains it out. Along with your antibiotics, it will help your gums heal fast.
Adjustment of dentures
Unfortunately for the aging population or those that have already lost teeth due to lack of care, dentures can be a huge culprit in causing gum boils. If you’re not cleaning your mouth and your dentures properly - either the full versions or partial ones - you will allow that bad bacteria to breed.
Along with it, dentures that aren’t fitting properly can cause irritation which gives the bacteria more places to make themselves at home. For those with dentures, make sure they fit you just right. Schedule an appointment to have them adjusted if they are rubbing your gums the wrong way to avoid getting gum boils.
The last resort your dentist will trot out is oral surgery, especially if you have a periapical abscess. If there is tooth decay, you will most likely need to have a root canal as soon as possible.
When gum infections become so severe that they cause damage to the surrounding teeth and underlying bones of the jaw, your dentist may have to respond with oral surgery that removes the affected tooth or teeth or take care of the damage to the bones beneath.
Home Remedies that can Help with Gum Boils
If you have gum boils, it is almost always a result of not taking good care of your oral hygiene. You can’t get rid of gum boils all on your own because it’s an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics and perhaps may require other dental procedures.
However, home remedies can help you heal and can minimize pain. They can also make you feel more comfortable until you get to the dentist to have your gum boils checked out.
Keep up your oral hygiene
Until you see your dentist about your gum boils, you should step up your oral hygiene routine. These are all the things you should be doing regularly like brushing your teeth at least twice per day and flossing.
One of the biggest downfalls is eating late and night while watching TV and then not brushing again before going to bed. Break the cycle and get your oral health back on track.
In addition to brushing and flossing, you shouldn’t have too many sugary things to eat or drink. The sugar sticks to your teeth and makes it easy for plaque to form, leading to tooth decay.
Smoking tops the list for causes that develop gum disease. The more you smoke, even after having treatment for gum disease, the less effective those treatments will be. Plus, having healthy teeth is much cooler than smoking, so make plans to quit for your best health overall.
And if it’s chewing tobacco you’re into, that’s something else you should stop immediately.
Rinse with saltwater
Saltwater is helpful for healing. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent. Rinsing with warm saltwater helps alleviate the extent and size of gum boils and helps draw out the swelling from the tissues around it because they are caused by swelling and inflammation.
The best part is you can easily make it right now at home. You’ll mix a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water. Simply swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds and then spit it out several times per day.
Or try hydrogen peroxide
Another thing you likely have in your medicine cabinet is hydrogen peroxide. You can make a mouthwash with this antibacterial stuff which can really help gum disease. It also helps relieve some of the pain and inflammation when you have gum boils.
All you’ll do is mix a 1:2 ratio of hydrogen peroxide to water. Swish it around for a few seconds and make sure to spit it all out. Do this twice per day until you get to your dentist for treatment.
Make turmeric paste
Turmeric is that wonder spice that looks like ginger though has a robust orange hue. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its curcumin content, it could be helpful in treating gum boils at home.
You can use a turmeric mouthwash, swishing for one minute in the morning and one minute at night. Or you can add a little bit of it into your regular toothpaste and brush as you normally would.
Pull out your essential oil kit
For those of you that regularly use essential oils, you may find them to help you out with your gum boils until you see your dentist. Some essential oils can stop microbial activity from going overboard. Peppermint, cinnamon, and clove oils are the most popular for promoting oral health.
Interestingly, clove oil contains eugenol, something that is commonly found in dental products. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and even anesthetic properties that may bring you some much-needed relief.
Peppermint oil is great for improving bad breath, likely because it fights the germs that cause disease in your mouth. Cinnamon oil also lends antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help restore the balance in your mouth.
Whichever of these essential oils you use, you should add a drop of it to your usual toothpaste or mouthwash. You can also add a drop to a quarter-cup of water to create your own rinse. Some people mix it with coconut oil since it’s a carrier oil and apply it directly to the gum boils.
Gum boils are not contagious
Typically, gum boils are not contagious but if it is present because of severe gum disease, it can possibly spread the disease bacteria through salivary transmission by kissing or sharing food.
Gum boils can heal quickly
Most gum abscesses can heal quickly after the area is thoroughly cleaned and the pus is allowed to escape. Usually, with the right treatment, it takes a couple of weeks for the infection and any swelling or pain to go away.
You can tell if a gum boil is serious within a few weeks
If you are treating a gum boil through optimal oral hygiene practices it should show some improvement – or even reversal – within a few weeks. If it doesn’t improve or worsens you may need to see a professional for treatment.
Wisdom teeth can cause gum boils
Wisdom teeth getting infections and gum boil development around them is common and they can cause enlarged cysts, swelling and pain. They can get infected more easily than other teeth because of their location and that they are harder to clean.
Gum boils don’t heal on their own
If you think you’re gum boil healed on its own, chances are you had a tiny opening where the pus drained out. Just because the gum boil pops or disappears, this does not mean that the infection is healed. There could still be a dental abscess deep under your gums inside the tooth root.
However, you can possibly heal your gum boil on your own at home depending on what type of infection is causing it. You can do it with proper oral hygiene on a routine basis that removes all the plaque from the area.
Most gum boils don’t hurt
Believe it or not, most gum boils don’t hurt, but there may be pain present if the gum boil is due to an infection and is a dental abscess.
A gum fistula is a gum boil
Fistula is the term dentists use to refer to gum boils or dental abscesses. Their pimple-like appearance on your gums is where infection is draining from the opening at the tip of the tooth root.
Gum boils can get bigger
Gum boils do come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the one you have can possibly get bigger. The extent of swelling and pus inside the fistula may cause the boil to get the size of a marble or even larger.
You can pop a gum boil
If you apply pressure to your gum boil it is normal for it to swell up and pop. The visible gum boil tends to come and go when you have an abscessed tooth so even if you pop it and cause it to drain there is still an infection underneath.
Hormones can cause gum boils
With pregnancy, it is not uncommon to see what are referred to as “pregnancy tumors.” And they may mimic the appearance of gum boils. This temporary localized swelling is due to hormone fluctuations during gestation and may go away after giving birth.
Keep in mind though that if it is an untreated gum infection, the pregnancy tumors could put you at an increased risk of preeclampsia and premature labor.
A gum boil can appear on the roof of your mouth
While swelling on your lips or tongue is probably due to another type of dental infection, a gum boil typically occurs alongside your mouth roots, however, it’s possible to see one on the roof of your mouth since some roots are quite long.
Gum boils are considered common
Gum boils are common because any time you have an abscessed or dying tooth there’s a good chance you will see one. You may also see a gum boil if you have aggressive gum disease.
Stress typically does not cause gum boils
A gum boil can last a long time if not treated
Gum boils will last until the tooth falls out or if the abscessed tooth or dental infection goes untreated. However, some gum boils can tend to flare up, drain and not come back even if the infection is still draining. But over time, the pus and inflammation usually build back up and cause the gum boil to be visible again.
A gum boil can come and go for months and the longer it goes on the more deterioration it causes the tooth which will eventually fall out or need extracting due to a chronic dental abscess.
Dogs and cats can get gum boils
Household pets – and any mammal – can develop a gum boil because it is still the result of an infected or dying tooth.
Gum boils are usually not cancerous
Getting Help for Gum Boils
Whether you can see a pus-filled bump on your gums or the symptoms listed above sound familiar, call your dentist and make an appointment as soon as possible. If you are in so much pain that it’s hard to do anything else, make sure you inform your dentist so you’ll be fitted in with the emergency patients and seen faster.
When you don’t take care of your teeth, you will wind up with problems, often painful ones. It’s not too late to start being good to your teeth. After you get your gum boils taken care of, be diligent with your oral health at home and always schedule your dental appointments twice a year to prevent anything serious from developing.
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Jennifer Raskin is a freelance writer, wife and mom that loves cold weather despite her location in Florida, cooking, reading, watching ‘80s movies, weight-lifting, and wine tasting.
With over 30 years of writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines and corporate communications, Kevin Kerfoot writes about natural health, nutrition, skincare and oral hygiene for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletter.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.