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What are Some Causes of Sore Gums?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Sore gums are often a symptom of poor oral health, and typically occur in teenagers and adults. There are several leading causes for sore gums, some of which include teething, impacted teeth, injuries, gum disease, oral cancer, and mouth ulcers, just to name a few; many women also experience painful and bleeding gums due to a change in hormone levels during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Various methods for preventing painful gums, such as good oral hygiene, avoiding tobacco, and eating less sugar, can help reduce any gum soreness or prevent it from occurring; however, when proper precautions are not taken to care for teeth and gums, there is a risk of developing gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss.


The process in which the teeth force their way through the surface of the gums is known as teething, and it typically begins around six months of age; this process is necessary and natural, but it can create very sore gums. Teething is usually completed in childhood, with the exception of wisdom teeth, which can appear in the teenage years or early twenties. Some symptoms of teething in children include biting, drooling, running a slight fever, and red or swollen gums. Offering something cold or hard to chew on, or applying a rub-on, medicated gel may help to ease symptoms; many doctors recommend giving the child pain reliever, but it is best to consult the baby's doctor before offering medication.

Impacted Teeth

When a tooth is coming through the gums, it can become blocked either by another tooth or by the jaw bone; as a result, the tooth cannot erupt to the surface of the gums. Instead, it becomes stuck, or impacted below the gums, and must be extracted by a dentist to relieve the pain, and to avoid problems with proper teeth alignment. One common example of impacted teeth are wisdom teeth, which aren't usually developed until the late teenage years or early twenties. Many people do not need their wisdom teeth and are advised to have them removed because they may cause dental problems after eruption.


Soreness in the gums may occur after any type of impact to the teeth or gums with a hard object, such as furniture or the floor, during a fall or accident. These types of injuries are quite common in contact sports such as hockey or football. Mouth guards are designed to absorb the impact and reduce the chance of injury to the teeth and gums; some helmets are designed with a cage or mask over the face to help prevent the eyes, nose, and mouth from coming into contact with harmful objects.

Gum Disease

Gingivitis and periodontitis disease are two types of gum disease, which is the leading cause of sore gums, and is most common in adults. Gingivitis is caused by an infection in the gums due to the presence of tarter on the teeth, at the gum line; the most noticeable symptom of gingivitis is sore gums that bleed when the teeth are brushed. Periodontitis, which weakens the attachment of the teeth to the bones, is often caused by an unresolved case of gingivitis. In this case, the gums can swell, bleed, and change color, and if left untreated the sufferer runs the risk of losing teeth.

Oral Cancer

Most commonly found among people who smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco, cancer of the mouth can develop in non-tobacco users as well. Some of the first symptoms include sore gums, bad breath, and teeth that move; other symptoms include red or white patches in the mouth, small or large tumors, bleeding, and trouble swallowing. In many cases, the cancerous tumor is surgically removed; radiation and chemotherapy may be needed to kill cancer cells in larger tumors.

Mouth Ulcers

Commonly known as canker sores, mouth ulcers can cause sore gums if the canker is located on the surface of the gums, or if the gums rub against the canker due to its location. The cause of ulcers is not well-understood, but many theories exist such as nutritional deficiencies, allergic reactions, or a change in diet; it is known that for some people, emotional stress or an injury to the mouth can result in an ulcer. < /p>

How to Prevent and Reduce Painful Gums

Good oral hygiene is the first step to prevent sore gums, this includes brushing teeth and gums at least twice a day and flossing daily. Avoiding all tobacco products may reduce the risk of oral cancer. If the gums are already sore, avoiding extremely hot or cold food and beverages may help reduce the pain; some dentists will prescribe a mouth rinse to help reduce any swelling and pain in the gums. Eating healthy food and drinking plenty of water also help strengthen and protect teeth and gums.

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.
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Discussion Comments
By anon1000779 — On Dec 27, 2018

I used whitening strips and woke up to find the bottom gums red. What can I do?

By anon997939 — On Mar 21, 2017

I agree with the eating hard food. My gums in the back where there are no teeth are now hurting and I am 81 and not expecting to have any new teeth. My gums every where else are fine with no bleeding.

By wleene1971 — On Jun 30, 2015

Most natural treatments at home are safe when taken wisely with a little bit of common sense.

By anon989361 — On Mar 03, 2015

I have sore gums and also get ulcer and sometimes it is hard to open my mouth wide. Could this be caused by sinus or medication?

By anon939447 — On Mar 13, 2014

I was diagnosed with periodontal disease. The dentist couldn't understand it as it came on so quickly, within six months. My gums were swollen and painful most of the time and my teeth were sensitive and painful. I googled it and tried any suggestions or remedies with no change at all. I was finally put on the mini-pill for p.m.t and it also solved my gum problems. My dentist is very impressed with the change in gum health. I've had no problems at all but recently came off of it because of weight gain and within three days, my gums are so sore again.

By anon310890 — On Dec 27, 2012

After my baby tooth fell out, the gums in that area where that tooth used to become sore. Why is it sore?

By anon270437 — On May 22, 2012

@anon134850: You may have an allergy to kiwi. It should clear up within a few hours or a day. Kiwi always leave a creepy prickly sensation in my mouth, so I've had to stop eating them.

By anon161837 — On Mar 21, 2011

I've had swollen gums for quite some time now. today i noticed while looking in the mirror that my teeth in the front have a gap in between them. The gap was caused since my gums were being eaten away slowly. what should i do?

By anon154823 — On Feb 22, 2011

Could you tell me if there is an antibiotic for gums and mouth? The front of my gums and the back of my lip are sore and feels swollen. I have used Difflam mouth wash for two days and it got worse, so I started to use salt water but does not seem to be working.

By anon143463 — On Jan 16, 2011

gums at the end of the last teeth (jaw) is loose and painful which makes the teeth itch and also i can't really chew or open my mouth wide.

By anon137503 — On Dec 28, 2010

i have sore gums in the back where my teeth are at. it only hurts when i move my mouth. it stings also. can someone please help me? I'm scared. I'm 18 so it might be the wisdom tooth, but I don't know.

By anon134850 — On Dec 16, 2010

I have really strange burning sensations around my inner lips, tongue, and bottom of my gums. Is it possible I have damaged the skin with too much acid? (i had several kiwis earlier and taste in mouth has gone very strange).

By anon123231 — On Oct 31, 2010

Sore gums are the result of insufficient stimulation with an accurate tooth-brush in the way Nature intended. It must imitate the chewing motion. No sideways only little up and down movements. Infected gums will be tender and bleed for a few days before healing, then never again will they be sore.

By anon118809 — On Oct 15, 2010

i am trying not to worry, however, i have the symptoms of mouth cancer, and i don't have insurance. what do i do? what kind of tests do they do for mouth cancer?

By anon40638 — On Aug 10, 2009

Ask your dentist to check for the beginning of gum disease. The items that you mention shouldn't make your mouth sore.

By arunil — On Aug 04, 2009

I think the biggest cause of sore gums for me is eating hard food. Crunchy foods, like hard breads or cereals, often injure my gums slightly, and make my whole mouth sore.

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