Signs of a Gum Infection

Young woman holding toothbrush, looking in mirror, rear view
Woman brushing her teeth (Image: Christopher Robbins/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A gum infection, or periodontitis, occurs when bacteria present in dental plaque spread to the gums. MayoClinic.com notes that it is usually caused by poor oral hygiene. Periodontitis can lead to a gingival abscess, which occurs when pus caused by the disintegration of nerves and blood vessels forms in your gums. Gum infections are usually treated with antibiotics; if damage is severe, you may need bone or tissue grafts. If you have symptoms of periodontitis or abscesses, see a dentist immediately.

Pain

Pain, usually gnawing and continuous, is a primary symptom of infected gums, although it is possible also to have periodontitis and feel no pain. If your gum infection takes the form of a gingival abscess, you will very likely feel severe pain, especially upon chewing. Not only will your gums be painful, but the nearest tooth will be painful when tapped, and gums will be tender to the touch. According to MayoClinic.com, hot foods or liquids may increase the discomfort. Dental Tips adds that pain will worsen when you are lying down. Medical News Today says you can take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin -- as long as you have no conditions that preclude their use -- to alleviate pain while you are waiting to see a dentist.

Swollen Glands and Fever

If you have infected gums, especially if a gingival abscess has formed, you may have a fever and swollen lymph glands in your neck. Dental Tips adds that you will probably feel fatigued, rundown or generally unwell.

Puffy or Dark Red Gums

Swollen gums are another sign of gum infection. They may also appear to be a dark, dusky or purplish red; MayoClinic.com says that healthy gums are firm and pale pink.

Sour Taste and Bad Breath

Dental Tips notes that another sign of gum infection is having a sour or bitter taste in your mouth, along with foul breath.

Pain Behind Cheekbones

Maxillary sinusitis is caused by bacteria from infected gums getting into the spaces behind the cheekbones, causing sharp or aching pains behind your cheeks. Medical News Today says this complication can usually be treated with antibiotics.

Dangerous Symptoms and Complications

A gum infection can eventually damage the soft tissue and bone that support teeth. Medical News Today says that complications of gum abscesses can include osteomyelitis, or a bone infection, which causes fever, severe pain in the affected bone and nausea. Ludwig's angina, a potentially life-threatening complication of an abscess, causes swelling and intense pain under the tongue and in the neck, sometimes making it difficult to breathe. Seek emergency care if you have these symptoms.

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