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What are Gum Blisters?

By Brandon A. Quick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Gum blisters are fluid-filled pouches or sores that form along the tooth line in the mouth, often directly on or just under the area where the tooth’s root sits. Sometimes these blisters are more or less harmless, as is the case when these pockets form in response to some sort of injury or trauma to the mouth. Other times, though, they can be much more serious. Gum blisters are often a sign of chronic tooth infections, and in rarer cases they can also be caused by certain autoimmune conditions. Canker sores and cold sores, two common mouth irritations, are sometimes considered “blisters,” too, but a lot of this depends on who is providing the opinion. Some dental experts consider cold and canker sores to be temporary swellings rather than true blisters.

Understanding Gum Irritations

Blisters are one of the body’s ways of protecting itself against injury. They usually form over skin that has been constantly exposed to some sort of friction or irritation, and their main goal is to keep the injured area safe until the skin has a chance to heal itself. Most form as fluid-filled protrusions that are sensitive to the touch and sometimes even painful. Those that form in the mouth can be particularly unpleasant, and can make it more difficult to eat, to chew, and to swallow.

Tooth Infections

When a tooth becomes impacted or when its roots become inflamed, it can change the nature of the gum line, leading to friction and pressure when a person bites or chews. Blisters in these cases often start on the root of the tooth, then move and grow up to the gums. These tend to be painful, and won’t usually go away till the problem is solved.

In cases of tooth infection, this often means that a person won’t get relief till a dentist or other oral professional treats that infection, often by removing the problem tooth. Other problems, like failed dental implants or tooth shifts that have caused a change in a person’s bit pattern, may be easier to fix.

Blisters as an Autoimmune Response

In some cases blisters can appear on the gums more or less spontaneously, which can be very concerning. More often than not, the cause here isn’t so much pressure or irritation as it is autoimmune response. Diseases and conditions like cicatricial pemphigoid and pemphigus often include blistering over most moist tissues among their chief symptoms. These sorts of ailments are relatively rare, but do present serious health risks if left untreated.

Canker Sores

Canker sores are much more common, and while most experts don’t consider them to be true blisters, they are often grouped within this category because of their size and how bothersome they can be. These are not contagious, always appear on the inside of the mouth, and usually have gray, white, or yellow centers with a red border.

A number of different things can cause canker sores, though factors such as genetics, types of food and drink consumed, trauma to the mouth, emotional stress, and poor nutrition are all believed to play a role. No matter their cause, they can be very painful and annoying. There isn’t usually a foolproof way to prevent their formation, but a variety of over-the-counter oral rinses, mouthwashes, and ointments are available to help sufferers deal with the related discomfort. Ointments can be applied with an applicator or cotton swab directly to the sore. It is advisable not to eat or drink for at least 30 minutes after the application to avoid rubbing off the ointment.

Cold Sores

Cold sores are another blister-like irritation that can impact the gums. Cold sores are typically caused by a virus, usually Herpes simplex virus 1 or 2. They usually appear on or around the lips, though they can sometimes form inside the mouth. People suffering from cold sores may feel ill, but most do not have any additional symptoms. Once the virus enters the body, usually during childhood, it can be dormant for years. In some people, the dormant virus may be reactivated later in life, causing painful outbreaks. Triggers may include stress, exposure to heat or cold, and environmental factors.

Cold sores commonly heal by themselves in about a week. Topical ointments designed to speed the healing or less the outbreak's severity are available, but they are rarely prescribed or recommended because most are not highly effective.

Treatment and Prognosis

Most experts recommend regular dental cleanings and proper oral health care, including daily brushing and flossing of the teeth, as a means of both maintaining overall health. These simple steps can also go a long way towards preventing the sort of blisters that form in response to tooth problems and abscesses. Not a lot can be done to prevent blisters formed by trauma, autoimmune conditions, or latent viruses, though.

Anyone who is concerned about gum blisters, particularly those that are painful and that last for longer than a few weeks, should usually schedule a check-up with a professional. Treatment options vary, but in most cases blisters will subside once their cause is both known and addressed.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon991181 — On Jun 02, 2015

just got my gums checked out yesterday. My doc told me they usually come if you've had allergies or are about to get a cold. He prescribed medicated mouth wash and said it should be gone in a few days. Whew!

By wavy58 — On Jan 02, 2013

Canker sores are what I call mouth ulcers. They have a hole in the center, which is the most sensitive and painful part.

I generally don't get them on my gums, though. I get them on my inner cheek flaps, usually close to the gums but not on them.

They rub up against my teeth and gums and cause constant pain. I've heard that biting your cheek can actually cause a canker sore to form, and I believe it, because it seems that not long after I bite myself, I get one.

I rinse my mouth out with warm salt water, and that seems to make them fade a little sooner than they otherwise would. I also make a baking soda paste to rub on them, and though it stings at first, it starts to provide relief after a minute or so.

By Oceana — On Jan 01, 2013

I've had fever blisters on my lips before, but I've never had any on my gums. That would be incredibly painful!

By giddion — On Jan 01, 2013

@healthy4life – True, but when you have blisters in your mouth, you should avoid oranges and spicy foods as a form of sore gums treatment. Eating them only causes pain, so you probably wouldn't want to while you had blisters, anyway.

Like you, I don't think that avoiding all acidic foods is the answer. However, you shouldn't eat only foods like this that can irritate your gums. You should include other foods and beverages that don't cause irritation.

By healthy4life — On Dec 31, 2012

It's awful that spicy foods and citrus fruit can cause sore gums. Spicy food is actually good for you, because it speeds up your metabolism and clears your sinuses. I know that oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C and can boost your immune system.

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