Itchy gums is usually a sign of gum irritation or inflammation. It often occurs due to poor dental care and hygiene. It is important to remember that dental problems are not just about the teeth but also about the gums.
Medically called gingivae, the gums are mucosal membranes that enclose the fibrous connective tissue supporting the teeth inside the jaws as well as the alveolar sockets which act as the foundations of the teeth roots. Gum irritation and inflammation and consequent itchy gums can occur due to formation of plaque, gum trauma, allergic reactions, etc. Untreated cases of gum problems can worsen to become gum diseases like gingivitis, periodontitis, etc.
Proper dental hygiene and care can not only help lower the instances of tooth problems like tooth decay, cavities, etc., but can also help prevent gum problems like itchy gums, etc.
Causes of itchy gums
Some of the common causes of itchy gums are listed below:
- Plaque accumulation: It is one of the most prevalent causes of gum inflammation. Plaque refers to a coating or film of colorless sticky substance that collects on the gums and teeth. It is made from mucus and bacteria present in the oral cavity and proliferates due to deficient dental care. Food debris tends to collect on the teeth and needs to be removed via brushing. If the food stays there, due to non-brushing, etc., then bacteria act on it and produce acid which damage the surface of teeth. People with bad dental hygiene tend to suffer from layers of plaque on the teeth and gums. Plaque can crust over and form tartar; plaque in the teeth roots can affect the gums and cause gum irritation and gum disease.
- Gingivitis is the first phase of gum disease and one of the most widespread causes of itchy gums. Poor dental health causes excessive growth of plaque which causes gingivitis.
- Untreated cases of gingivitis can lead to the more serious periodontal disease or periodontitis. In this condition, the periodontal ligament that joins the teeth to the bone and the socket holding the teeth is affected, thereby causing the development of an empty pocket between the gum and the tooth. The inflammation and infection associated with this later phase of gum disease then spreads to the bones surrounding the teeth and gums, thereby causing bleeding, swollen, and itchy gums. Some patients may suffer from bad breath, loose teeth, with increased risk to the tooth falling off.
- Gum injuries: Injuries to the oral cavity and gums can also be a cause of itchy gums. The presence of bruxism of a wound or cut in the gums can lead to discomfort, itching sensations, and gum recession. Bruxism patients can opt for mouth guards to protect the gums and teeth from trauma or injury.
- Allergic reactions: Itchy gums can occur in people with good dental health due to some allergic reaction to the intake of certain foods, spices, seeds, or medicines. Patients may also elicit symptoms like swelling, burning, and itchiness in the entire oral cavity.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes in the body can affect the gums and causing itchy gums, redness, tenderness, bleeding, and sensitivity. It is more common in women and causes problems during pregnancy, puberty, menstruation, and/or menopause.
- Pregnancy gingivitis can occur in the 2nd or 3rd trimester and continue till the 8th month of pregnancy.
- Increased flow of blood to the gums during puberty can cause sensitivity and itchiness.
- Burning mouth syndrome: The condition is common in dentures using elderly people. It is possible for bacteria to accumulate and grow under the dentures, thereby causing redness, inflammation, swelling, and itchy gums.
- Bad dental fillings: Poor done or fractured dental filling can irritate the gums, thereby causing bleeding, swelling, and itchy gums. The area may subsequently experience plaque and tartar buildup which cannot be easily cleaned via normal brushing.
- Other causes: Gum irritation and itchy gums can also occur due to nutritional deficiencies; in babies during teething; use of certain teeth whitening dental products; and excessively vigorous brushing of the teeth.
Treatment of itchy gums
Treatment of itchy gums is dependent on the cause. A few treatment options are listed below:
- Dentists will use a special medical instrument known as an electric scaler for removing plaque deposits.
- Gingivitis and its symptoms can be alleviated with self-care practices like rinsing the mouth after every meal; daily flossing; brushing 2 times a day with a fluoride or anti-plaque toothpaste; and fighting gum infections via use of an antiseptic mouthwash.
- Do not use toothpaste with sodium lauryl sulfate as it is caustic, promotes foaming, and adversely affects the mouth lining. It may even irritate the gums and cause ulcers and itchy gums.
- Treatment of periodontal disease or periodontitis may require root planning and scaling to remove plaque, tartar, and bacterial toxins. The dentist may also recommend oral medicines, antibiotic gels, and a specific toothpaste. Bone loss or gum recession may be treated via oral surgery.
Some self-care measures to alleviate itchy gums and irritation include gargling or rinsing with lukewarm salt water; gentle gum massages with clove oil; avoiding acidic, starchy, and sugary foods; and quitting smoking.
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