Gum Boils

Written By Sharon Boyd, RDH, BS.       |       Reviewed by Lara T. Coseo, DDS

Contents
 1 What are Gum Boils
 2 Types of Gum Boils
 3 Signs and Symptoms of Gum Boils
      3.1 Dangers and Health Risks
 4 Treatments for Gum Boils
     4.1 Home Remedies
            i.   Improved Oral Hygiene
            ii.  Essential Oil Application
     4.2 Professional Treatment
            i.   Periodontal Therapy
            ii.  Root Canal Therapy
            iii. Surgical Removal or Drainage
            iv. Denture Relining
 5 Your Questions Answered About Gum Boils
 6 References

What are Gum Boils

What do gum boils look likeGum boils - also known as parulus - are drainage points for abscesses in the roots of teeth. When the nerve of a tooth dies, it will exit the tooth near its root. In reaction to this, the body sends white blood cells to destroy the infection, and as these white blood cells die off they form an abscess. If this goes untreated, the abscess will break through the tissues of the mouth and drain. This point of drainage is known as parulus or gum boil.

Gum boils may be fluid filled or made of solid fibrous gum tissue. Color may appear normal or the gum boil area can appear red and raw.

Types of Gum Boils

What causes gum boils? Gum boils have different causes and variations. They may also be called tumors. Knowing what causes gum boils in your mouth can help you treat them appropriately.

  • Gum overgrowth may be due to a side effect of prescription medications, ill-fitting dentures, or wearing braces. These are probably the most common form of gum boils.

  • A common form of gum tumor is a “pregnancy tumor” on the gums, induced by hormone levels during pregnancy. These quickly go away after the pregnancy is completed and hormone levels return to normal.

  • Congenital gum boils may be present at birth.

  • Dental abscesses due to severe decay and infection of the tooth nerve may appear as a boil on the gums.

  • Boils caused by severe periodontal disease are present when oral hygiene and plaque control is poor.
Here's some more information about periodontal diseases and side effects.

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Signs and Symptoms of Gum Boils

Gum boils in the mouth may appear in several different forms:
  • Swollen, hard areas of fibrous tissue
  • Soft, swollen fluid-filled blisters
  • Light pink
  • Dark red
  • No bleeding, lack of blood supply
  • Bleeding during oral hygiene

Even though they aren't actually in or above a tooth, gum boils will usually cause severe toothaches. This is because the inflammation presses on the nerve of other teeth. Other symptoms that may occur as a result are nausea, fever, redness in mouth or face, breath odor, diarrhea, swollen glands, sensitivity to hot or cold, tenderness to touch or pain while chewing.

Dangers and Health Risks

Gum boils may be completely benign or they may be a signal that there is serious infection in your mouth. Most benign gum boils do not have any symptoms such as tenderness or bleeding, while those with symptoms tend to be associated with severe dental infections.

If left untreated the infections such as those associated with dental abscesses can spread through the body and increase risks for cardiovascular disease, other systemic diseases, or in rare cases, brain abscesses. 1

If a gum boil or abscess is not treated, the infection can spread to other teeth or even other parts of the body. Swelling can increase and in some cases cut off airways and cause death. More immediate dangers include loss of teeth from bone erosion that can be caused by the infection.

Treatments for Gum Boils

Not only will the abscess need to be drained, but you will likely need antibiotics to fight the remaining infection. However, this only treats the surface of the situation. In many cases, since the gum boil is just the drainage point and indicator, you may need a root canal for the dying tooth as well. Depending on what type of infection is causing your gum boil there are a variety of home remedies and professional treatments available.

Home Remedies
 
Improved Oral Hygiene
Thorough removal of plaque through using electric toothbrushes, oral irrigation devices or flossing aids can reduce the levels of plaque biofilm in the mouth, decrease the rates of tooth decay, and reverse overgrowth of gum tissue.

Using a pure botanical toothpaste and mouthrinse will kill the bad bacteria that lead to common gum problems. This will also create a clean and healthy environment in the mouth.
Essential Oil Application
In addition to improved oral hygiene, the use of essential oils for topical application as part of a mouth rinse can improve bacteria levels in the mouth and improve tissue health. 3

Professional Treatment

Periodontal Therapy
If active gum disease or periodontal disease is causing the gum boil, a deep cleaning is necessary to remove the active bacteria from your mouth. Full mouth deep cleanings typically cost several hundred dollars and require frequent maintenance visits to keep oral health in check.

Root Canal Therapy
Gum boils caused from dental abscesses require root canal therapy and complete removal of the bacteria and decayed enamel from the tooth. A root canal and crown seal the tooth off from further infection. Complete treatment costs are generally over one thousand dollars.

Surgical Removal Or Drainage
Chronic gum boils, which are uncomfortable or cosmetically displeasing, may require surgical intervention. Draining the boil or surgically removing it can sometimes correct the problem. There is a chance of the boil returning in some cases. Surgically draining the boil is relatively affordable, but invasive surgical needs may cost a few hundred dollars.

Denture Relining
If the overgrowth of tissue is due to ill-fitting dentures, your denture may need to be relined professionally to prevent friction or abnormal rubbing of the gums.
 

Your Questions Answered About Gum Boils

Are gum boils contagious? Gum boils are typically not contagious. However, if the boil is present due to the presence of severe gum disease, it is possible to spread the disease bacteria to loved ones through kissing or salivary transmission such as when sharing food.

How do I know my gum boil isn’t something serious? Treating the gum boil through optimal oral hygiene practices should show some improvement or reversal in the area within two weeks. If the area does not improve or worsens after dedicated home hygiene you may need to see a professional for treatment.

Do gum boils hurt? Most gum boils usually do not hurt. If the boil is due to infection and is a dental abscess there may be pain present until root canal therapy can be performed.

Can I heal gum boils on my own? Depending on what type of infection is causing the gum boil, you may be able to heal it on your own at home. Dedicated oral hygiene that removes all plaque from the area on a routine basis may be all you need. If the boil persists you may need professional treatment.

Is a gum boil a gum fistula? Yes. A “fistula” is the term dentists use to refer to dental abscesses, or gum boils. The pimple-like appearance on your gums is where infection is draining from the opening at the tip of your tooth root. Fistulas/gum boils tend to come and go, depending on the cycle of infection.

Can you remove or pop gum boils? It’s normal for gum boils to swell up and “pop” if you apply pressure to them. When you have an abscessed tooth, the visible fistula (gum boil) tends to come and go. So even if you remove it by causing it to drain, there’s still an infection underneath.

Where all can they appear – tongue, lip, roof of mouth? A gum boil usually refers to the visible pimple or fistula caused by a dental abscess. These sores will occur somewhere alongside of your tooth roots. But since some roots are quite long, it’s possible to see one in the roof of your mouth. Swelling on your lips or tongue would be due to another type of dental infection.

Are gum boils common? Yes. Any time you have an abscessed or dying tooth, there’s a high chance that you’ll see a gum boil (fistula or pimple) at some point in time. However, the absence of a gum boil does not mean the tooth is not infected. You might also see a gum boil if you have aggressive gum disease.

Will gum boils go away on their own? Most gum boils or tooth fistulas tend to follow a cycle of swelling and drainage. You may see one today, but not tomorrow. Unfortunately, the cause of the infection will not go away on its own. It must be treated.

How long do gum boils last? A gum boil will last as long as the dental infection or abscessed tooth goes untreated, or until the tooth falls out. Some boils tend to flare up and then pop (drain) and not come back, even if the infection is still draining.

What bacteria causes gum boils? Inside gum boils is a combination of different anaerobic gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, which cause inflammation and pus formation. In some cases, the extent of bacteria and spread of the pus can lead to sepsis and require hospitalization.

Can gum boils make you sick? If severe enough, yes. Chronic and untreated gum boils can lead to life-threatening sepsis that requires hospitalization and medical treatment (especially if the infection occurs in a child.) If the dental abscess starts to spread into your face, seek immediate medical care.

What if a child gets a gum boil? Gum boils can be life-threatening for children, due to the proximity to the brain. An untreated pediatric dental abscess should be treated as soon as it is diagnosed. It is not uncommon for children to require hospitalization because of an untreated gum boil.

Are gum boils cancerous? Usually, no. However, any oral lesion that doesn’t heal within 10-14 days should be evaluated by your dentist as part of an oral cancer screening. Precancerous or suspect sores may need to be biopsied. Since oral cancer typically is hard to detect, the earliest signs or symptoms could mean the cancer has already reached an aggressive stage of the disease.

Can cats and dogs get gum boils? Yes. Any mammal, including your household pet, can develop a gum boil. Boils are simply the result of an infected or dying tooth. If your pet was in a fight with another pet and hurt a tooth during the process, the trauma may be enough to trigger a gum boil even if months have already gone by.

How long do gum boils last? A gum boil can come and go for months. However, the longer it goes on, the more deterioration it will cause to the tooth. Eventually, the tooth will likely fall out or need to be extracted because of having a chronic dental abscess.

Can gum boils come and go? Yes. Since the infection and bacteria-filled pus push out of the tooth and into the gums, once your gum boil pops it will seem to go away. But over time, that pus and inflammation usually build back up, causing your gum boil to be visible again.

How common are gum boils? You’ll typically only see a gum boil if you have a severe dental infection, like an abscessed tooth or aggressive periodontal (gum) disease. The boil forms when infection inside of the tooth has become so severe that it needs somewhere to drain.

When will gum boils go away? Gum boils go away when the source of the infection is treated. If a gum boil pops it may appear to go away on its own, but that does not mean the infection underneath the gums has healed itself.

How do dentists treat gum boils? Most gum boils are due to dental abscesses. Dentists treat abscessed teeth with things like antibiotics, root canal therapy, or tooth extractions. If the boil is because of gum disease, a deep cleaning may be recommended.

Is salt water good for gum boils? Yes. Since gum boils are caused by inflammation and swelling, rinsing with warm saltwater can help alleviate the extent and size of the fistula inside your mouth. The solution helps draw out the swelling from the tissues around it.

Can gum boils be caused by stress? Not necessarily. But if the sore isn’t a gum boil and is a “cold sore” which is caused by a strain of the herpes virus, it can be exaggerated by stress and flare up due to a weakening of the immune system.

Can gum boils make you sick? Yes. Any oral infection, especially gum boils/dental abscesses have the chance of spreading bacteria into other parts of your body. The pus from a gum boil has even been known to spread to the brain.

Can hormones cause gum boils? It’s not uncommon to see something called “pregnancy tumors” (which may mimic the appearance of gum boils) on the gums during pregnancy. The localized swelling is usually temporary and due to hormone fluctuations during gestation and go away after giving birth. However, if it’s an untreated gum infection, the pregnancy tumors could put you at an increased risk of premature labor and preeclampsia.

Can antibiotics cause gum boils? Antibiotics are usually used to treat gum boils, reducing the extent of infection and inflammation prior to your root canal treatment (making the endodontic therapy more comfortable.) If you’re allergic to any specific types of antibiotics, let your doctor or dentist know.

Do gum boils get bigger? Gum boils come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For some people, they may be no bigger than the size of a pinhead. For others, the extent of swelling and pus inside of the fistula may cause the boil to be the size of a marble or larger.

Do gum boils heal on their own? If your gum boil suddenly pops or seems to disappear, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the infection itself has healed. There may still be a dental abscess deep under your gums, inside of the tooth root. Instead of having a gum boil, you may only have a tiny opening where the pus is draining.

Can wisdom teeth cause gum boils? It’s quite common for wisdom teeth to get infections around them, causing enlarged cysts, swelling, and pain. Because of their location (and being hard to clean,) wisdom teeth get infected more easily than other teeth do, resulting in gum boil development.

How long do gum boils take to heal? The time it takes your gum boil to heal often depends on how quickly and the type of treatment you get. Usually it takes about a couple of weeks for the infection (including any related swelling or pain) to go away with the right treatment.

Try OraMD, the natural solution for healthy teeth and gums!
 

References:

  1. 1Jepsen S, Kebschull M, Deschner J.; Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz. Relationship Between Periodontitis And Systemic Diseases. (Article in German) 2011 Sep;54(9):1089-96. 
  2. 2Clifton TC, Kalamchi S.; A Case Of Odontogenic Brain Abscess Arising From Covert Dental Sepsis.; Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2012 Jan;94(1):41-3. 
  3. 3Charles CA, Amini P, Gallob J, Shang H, McGuire JA, Costa R.; Antiplaque And Antigingival Efficacy Of An Alcohol-Free Essential Oil Containing Mouthrinse: A 2-Week Clinical Trial. Am J Dent. 2012 Aug:25(4):195-8. 

Article Written By Sharon Boyd

Sharon has been a Registered Dental Hygienist since 2001. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Relations and Business. In 2011, she began implementing her dental knowledge into freelance writing services that aided dentists, product designers, continuing education providers and web marketing firms for their online and distribution purposes. She has since bridged her services into the medical and cosmetic surgery fields.

Website

 Lara T. Coseo, DDSArticle Reviewed by Dr. Lara Coseo

Lara T. Coseo, DDS, is a 2004 graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry.  She has 13 years of experience practicing general dentistry.  She currently serves as a part-time faculty instructor at Texas A&M College of Dentistry and writes dental website content and blog material.

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