Why Do My Gums Hurt When I Exercise?

Young woman with toothache putting ice bag on mouth
Irritated gums can cause mouth pain during exercise. (Image: diego_cervo/iStock/Getty Images)

Plaque, which leads to gum disease and cavities, can irritate your gum line and result in painful gums while exercising. The jarring your mouth experiences during running can cause your gums to hurt, for example; a dry mouth resulting from heavier breathing during exertion may also exacerbate the problems. A dentist can make a diagnosis by examining your teeth and gums, but you may be referred to a medical doctor if no oral problems are found.

Causes

Poor dental hygiene is the primary cause of gum disease and cavities. If you fail to your brush your teeth regularly, bacteria will stay on your teeth as the sticky film of plaque. If plaque stays on your teeth for two to three days, it can harden under your gum line and develop into tartar, where underlying bacteria is resistant to at-home dental care, according to MayoClinic.com. Gingivitis is the first level of gum disease, and can progress to periodontitis if left untreated. Periodontitis is caused by advanced gingivitis, which results in the loss of bone and tissue that support your teeth. Cavities are caused by tooth decay.

Identification

In the early stages of gingivitis, you may notice that your gums bleed when you brush your teeth. The gums may also appear swollen and feel tender. If gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, the gums will begin receding from your teeth. The tenderness of your gums may be more severe with periodontitis. Your teeth can become loose and you may develop new spaces between your teeth. The tenderness of your gums for both early and advanced stages of gum disease can cause discomfort while exercising, especially if the exercise involves your foot forcefully hitting the ground. Your foot forcefully hitting the ground can also cause sharp pains in your gum line if you have a cavity, especially if your top and bottom teeth hit each other. A visible hole may be present if you have a cavity.

Treatment

Early stages of gum disease are treated by having a professional cleaning of your teeth and gum line by your dentist. If you have any misaligned teeth or ill-fitting crowns, your dentist may suggest fixing these problems as a part of your gingivitis treatment. Once gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, scaling and root planning is necessary. Scaling involves removing tartar and bacteria from your teeth. Root planning involves smoothing the root surface. Antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. A cavity is treated by drilling away decay and filling it with restorative materials. If the decay kills your tooth’s nerve, a root canal will be needed.

Prevention

Brushing your teeth after eating is the best way to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. Use a soft toothbrush and replace it every three to four months, MayoClinic.com recommends; your dentist might suggest an electric toothbrush to provide a more thorough cleaning at home. Floss at least once per day and see your dentist every six to 12 months. A dentist can also apply a sealant to make your teeth less vulnerable to cavities. Drinking fluorinated water and chewing gum containing the sweetener xylitol can slow bacteria growth the leads to tooth decay, the Cleveland Clinic reports.

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