Understanding Gum Sensitivity

By Laurie Fanelli in Healthy Feeling

Gum sensitivity can affect anyone. Soreness may be caused by minor inflammation, or it can be a sign of a larger issue. Understanding the causes of gum pain, how to alleviate sensitivity, and ways to support strong, healthy gums are key to overall oral health.

If you are experiencing gum sensitivity, be sure to check in with your dentist to determine any associated causes or conditions.

Causes of Gum Pain

Brushing too hard or aggressively flossing may be a cause of short-term gum injuries. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing twice a day for two minutes each session with a soft-bristled brush. If you find that your gums feel a bit beat up after brushing, perhaps your toothbrush's bristles are too tough. Proper brushing technique includes angling your toothbrush at 45 degrees, so an improper angle may also be the cause of temporary gum sensitivity.

Persistent soreness could be a sign of gum disease, which can be diagnosed by your dentist. Gum disease is caused by plaque. If plaque is not properly brushed away, it can develop into tartar, and "that buildup of plaque and tartar can harbor bacteria that lead to gum disease," according to the ADA.

It is important to address gum disease in its early stage, known as gingivitis. When gum disease develops into periodontitis, the condition becomes more serious. Again, this is why regular visits to the dentist are so important in maintaining overall mouth health.

Child examines mother's mouth with a toy magnifying glass

Ways to Alleviate Gum Sensitivity

If you are experiencing minor gum sensitivity, and you have consulted your dentist to eliminate any root causes, you may be able to alleviate some of your discomfort by taking over-the-counter pain medication.

At home, you can try icing the area by wrapping an ice pack in a clean cloth. Apply the compress to the skin, not directly on the gums, to help reduce swelling.

There are also products available in most stores that offer relief for sore teeth and gums, such as oral anesthetic gels. Tom's of Maine Rapid Relief Sensitive Toothpaste uses a powerful combination of arginine and calcium carbonate—both derived from natural sources—to seal the pathways to sensitive tooth nerves to help block the pain.

Young woman sits in a dental chair waiting for a cleaning

Techniques for Supporting Gum Health

Along with regular dentist visits and a thorough brushing and flossing routine, there are other things you can do to support strong gums. According to a post from Harvard Medical School, a healthy diet—including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and more—provides essential nutrients and helps to suppress inflammation. Apples, almonds, and whole grains are a few examples of food for healthy gums.

The Harvard article also states that "people who smoke up to a half a pack of cigarettes per day are almost three times as likely as nonsmokers to have periodontitis." Avoiding smoking is a good way to reduce your risk.

The more you take care of your gums by making positive choices, the more your gums will benefit from those choices. Now, that's something to smile about!

How do you reinforce strong gum health? Tag us on Instagram at @toms_of_maine to share your techniques.

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Why It's Good

Educating yourself on the causes of and treatments for gum sensitivity is an important aspect of overall oral health, as is taking steps to support strong teeth and gums.