One of the principles of good dental care is to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. If your gums hurt, you may dread brushing your teeth. And the more you neglect doing it, the more your oral health will suffer.  In this article, we will list some of the common reasons why your gums hurt.

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11 possible reasons why your gums hurt


Gingivitis is arguably one of the most common reasons why your gums hurt. But what causes it? In most cases, gingivitis results from the build-up of plaque on your teeth. And this is due to sub-par dental hygiene. What happens is that the plaque and the tartar formation tend to irritate your gums and cause inflammation. If gingivitis is not treated, you risk getting severe gum disease or even losing your teeth.

Gum disease

If you are not consistent when it comes to brushing your teeth, then you are at risk of contracting gum disease. Some of the symptoms associated with gum disease include pain that emanates from the gums. Your gums may also look red, get swollen and puffy and start to bleed.

Canker sores (mouth ulcers)

Canker sores are yet another reason why your gums may be hurting. These are small and painful sores that appear at the base of your gums or elsewhere inside your mouth such as on the cheek lining or on your tongue.

Usually, they resolve themselves without a dentist’s intervention. You could manage them at home by gargling with specific mouthwashes or applying gels that contain hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and/or chlorhexidine. If they persist beyond a couple of days, it is important to get them checked by your dentist to exclude other types of ulcers/sores.

Hormonal changes

Although this may seem surprising for many, gums may hurt due to hormonal changes. This is common among women, especially during puberty. During this period, blood circulation increases in your gums. And they tend to feel tender, swollen, or even painful.

The same can happen during pregnancy when your hormones are raging. Another hormonal change starts at menopause, and it could also cause your gums to hurt and bleed.

Cold sores

cold sores - one of the reasons why your gums may hurt - savina dental clinics malta

When you get infected with the herpes simplex virus, you tend to develop cold sores on your lips. These sores are quite common in adults.

This is a virus that is transmitted during childhood due to close contact with friends, siblings, or parents. What you may not know is that about 47% of the American population has HSV-1. These are mainly people between 14 and 49 years of age. And unlike HSV-2 which is transmitted sexually, HSV-1 is contracted orally and leads to gingivostomatitis, an oral infection that affects the mouth and gums.

One of its symptoms includes cold blisters or sores in the mouth, ulcers on the gums, bad breath, and so on. A dentist doesn’t need any special tests to identify these sores and treat them. Moreover, you can recover from cold sores without any medical intervention. The only treatment is anti-viral therapy but this is mostly effective when one starts feeling the itchiness and irritation (prodromal symptoms) before the ulcers actually appear and so is rarely prescribed.

Abscessed tooth

A tooth abscess is undoubtedly one of the most painful dental infections. It starts on the roots of your tooth as a pus pocket. The problem is that this infection can make your gums swell, and as a result, they will hurt. If you are diagnosed with this condition, your dentist may recommend a root canal or treatment of the gum pocket, depending on whether the cause for the abscess is a dead nerve or gum disease.

Full and partial dentures

soak your dentures every night as advised by dentist - savina dental clinics

It is not uncommon to experience pain in your gums after having a dental procedure. Dentures and partials may irritate your gums and cause pain, especially if they are not fitting properly.

Several things can cause discomfort once you get dentures. For example, food particles may stick between your gums and the dentures, leading to your gums becoming sore. Your dentures may need some adjustment if they rub against your oral tissues and cause sores on the gums, tongue or cheeks. If not cleaned properly, oral thrush (candidiasis) can also develop and may cause pain or discomfort. Your dentist can come in handy by giving you some helpful tips on how to manage the soreness and sensitivity.

Oral cancer

Oral cancer can start as a sore. The sore could appear on your tongue, inner cheek, or gums. These ulcers are different in appearance to ulcers described above. One most noticeable difference is that this sore doesn’t resolve after a few weeks. If it is on the gums, you will feel some pain emanating from the affected area. For this reason, you should see your dentist whenever you have a persistent sore in your mouth.

Related Reading: 15 Minute OncAlert™ Oral Cancer Testing

A vitamin deficiency

Proper nutrition is an integral aspect of good dental health. That said, a deficiency in vitamin B and C may lead to painful gums. Lack of vitamin C is known to cause conditions such as scurvy and the symptoms of this disease include sore and swollen gums. The good news is that you can treat this deficiency by taking foods rich in these vitamins and minerals.

Rough brushing and flossing

Dental health best practices include Do not brush aggressively - savina dental clinics malta

Good dental hygiene practice includes brushing and flossing your teeth. This should be done properly. If you are too aggressive when brushing your teeth, you may not only irritate your gums but also inflame them. As a result, your gums will hurt.

Using a brush with gentle and flexible bristles and brushing your teeth gently can help you steer away from damaging your gums. According to the American Dental Association, a toothbrush with soft bristles cleans your teeth better than that with stiff and hard bristles.

Hormonal imbalance

Raging hormones are known to interfere with several health aspects. According to health experts, hormonal imbalance can affect your dental health as well. Your gums are very susceptible to hormonal surges.

Female hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen can increase blood flow to your gums. As such, your gums become highly irritable and sensitive. This is worsened by the presence of plaque and other forms of bacteria on your teeth and your gums may swell and become inflamed. The severity of the condition may advance if it is left untreated. In serious cases, tooth loss is a possibility.

If your gums are hurting persistently, you should not ignore them because there might be some grave underlying conditions. Visit your dentist for proper diagnosis and treatment before the health issue advances.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.