11 Reasons Why Your Gums Are Itchy

gum disease

Symptoms of itchy gums can signal a number of different dental or medical conditions. Although most people know about bleeding gums or gum swelling, having gingiva that itch is less common. But don’t ignore the warning signs. Chances are that the cause is minor. But there are situations where having itchy gums could indicate a serious medical condition, such as an allergic reaction that may be life-threatening.

Since your gums are “mucous membranes” (like your eyes, nose, etc.), they’re more sensitive to stimuli quicker than your skin is. Since they absorb things so quickly, having itchy gums should alert you that something is wrong.

Common Symptoms

Itchiness may present itself on its own. Or it could accompany other symptoms inside of your mouth, such as:

Itchy gums aren’t always red or swollen. They may look completely normal compared to the other gum tissues inside your mouth. Try to pay attention to see if it’s isolated to a specific area, around a particular tooth, or spread across a larger surface like the roof of your mouth and/or tongue.[1]

If the source of your itchy gums isn’t isolated to your mouth – but rather something systemic – you might also develop symptoms like fatigue, difficulty breathing, fever, nausea and vomiting, headaches, or itchy areas on other parts of your body. For people who have known food allergies or are having difficulty breathing, seek immediate emergency care.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your itchy gums may be something as minor as gingivitis, which is easily reversed with re-vamped oral hygiene within a week or two. But serious symptoms that involve other conditions could potentially be life threatening. Bottom line never ignore what your body is trying to tell you.[2]

Common Causes

1) Allergy

Symptoms

Allergic reactions tend to almost always involve some amount of swelling, redness, and itchiness. Remember how your skin responds to poison ivy? It itches! So, when your mucous membranes inside of your mouth are exposed to an allergen, your mouth will itch as well.

Treatment

Minor allergic reactions can usually be treated with over-the-counter antihistamine medications (Benadryl.) But if you have a known history of allergic reactions and tend to be high-risk for anaphylactic shock, wear a medical ID bracelet and carry an Epi-Pen.[3]

2) Plaque Buildup

Symptoms

Dental plaque is a mixture of live bacteria and acidic excrements that they create. If too much time goes by between brushing and flossing sessions, it’s only natural for those bacteria to start irritating your gum tissues. One of the earliest symptoms of gingivitis is – surprise – itchy gums. The gums might even itch when you’re brushing and flossing. You’ll likely note additional symptoms like swelling along the edges of your gums and bleeding.

Treatment

First and foremost, you need to create a plan for thorough plaque removal at least twice a day. Usually, that’s going to consist of a two-minute brushing session where you pay particular attention to your gumlines followed by flossing.[4] If you have trouble reaching specific areas inside of your mouth, a water flosser is a great additional tool to have on hand!

3) Hormonal Changes

Symptoms

Women tend to experience changes in their mouth and body more often than men, due to the various hormonal changes that occur during menses, pregnancy, and menopause. For some women, oral symptoms such as irritated gums will develop from time to time. The irritation may be minor or more severe, regardless of how good their home hygiene plan is.

Treatment

Fortunately, hormone-induced gum symptoms like swelling and itchiness tend to go away on their own, as hormone levels stabilize. For instance, a woman may notice her gums are more tender around menses, but symptoms are temporary. Longer periods of inflammation are common during pregnancy, but again, they usually revolve themselves after the mother has given birth.

4) Cut Or Injury | Teeth And Gums

Symptoms

When your body heals itself following some type of cut or injury, some people experience a tingling or itchy sensation in the area immediately around their wound. For example, some people tend to feel itchy gums after wisdom tooth surgery, while their surgical site is starting to heal. The symptoms typically wear off after a few days.

Treatment

Fortunately, your mouth can heal at an amazingly fast pace (again, because it’s covered in mucous membranes.) That’s why things like cuts to your gums or a burn after you’re eating pizza can bounce back so quickly.

Keep the area clean. Rinse regularly throughout the day to remove food particles. Topical numbing medication is ok to use every now and then, but if you need something stronger, ask your dentist about prescribing a “miracle mouthwash”.

5) Itchy Mouth After Eating (Allergies)

Symptoms

Food allergies are a serious condition that can be potentially life threatening. If you have a known food allergy – such as to things like shellfish or peanuts – being exposed can trigger a full-body allergic reaction that starts inside of your mouth. Generally speaking, you’ll feel itchy areas across your tongue, roof of your mouth, cheeks, lips, and in the back of your throat. In serious situations, your airway could close off and you may go into anaphylactic shock.

Treatment

When at all possible, avoid eating foods that you have a known allergy to. If your allergic response is minor, your physician may recommend taking over-the-counter medication such as Benadryl. However, for people with serious food allergies, it’s necessary to call 911 and administer an Epi-Pen, if available.

6) Bruxism

Symptoms

Teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism) tends to be a subconscious habit that most of us do while we’re sleeping or stressed out. The constant friction and rubbing inside of our mouths might lead to itchiness where gums are involved (like in areas where teeth are hitting your gums.) But additional symptoms typically involve ear pain, jaw/TMJ pain, worn teeth, and scalloped areas along the sides of the tongue, where the border comes into contact with your teeth biting together.[5]

Treatment

Bruxism is usually a condition that requires us having to re-train our jaw muscles or wear a protective splint to prevent them from fully engaging. During daytime bruxing, it’s important to consciously remind yourself of the proper mouth “resting position”. That is, having your lips together, but your teeth apart. Nighttime bruxing is best treated with a bruxism guard or night splint.

7) Dry Mouth

Symptoms

When your mouth doesn’t have enough saliva to keep it lubricated, we call the condition “xerostomia” or dry mouth. The lack of salivary flow can allow irritants to more easily bother your gum tissues and oral mucous membranes. When that happens, it’s easier for your mouth to develop symptoms of burning or itching.

Treatment

Dry mouth treatments usually involve a combination of increased water intake, supplemental moisturizing drops, or toothpaste and mouthwash designed for xerostomia. The key is to keep your mouth lubricated, before you develop tooth decay. You might also need to work with your dentist or doctor to figure out what’s causing your saliva glands to shut down.

Less Common Causes

1) Wisdom Teeth

Symptoms

When teeth start growing in, it’s normal for the gums over them to feel itchy and sore!

Treatment

Rinse with warm salt water to take some of the inflammation out of your gingiva while your tooth is working its way through the gums.

2) Tooth Abscess 

Symptoms

Abscessed teeth typically have a small pimple-like fistula on the gums just next to them. You might also notice a salty taste.

Treatment

Endodontic therapy (root canal treatment) is the only way to treat your tooth and avoid an unnecessary extraction.

3) Canker Sores

Symptoms

Aphthous ulcers or “canker” sores tend to create small, round, raw sores in specific areas of your mouth. They may itch.

Treatment

A typical canker sore can usually run its course within 10-14 days. Keep the area clean and avoid irritating the ulcer with food or your toothbrush.

4) Herpes Or Other Viral Infections

Symptoms

Cold sores and other types of herpetic outbreaks usually cause a tingly, itchy sensation before ulcers start popping up.

Treatment

Over-the-counter or prescription antiviral medication can shorten the duration of your outbreak. Laser treatment might also be available from your dentist and works best if administered within the first day or two of the itchy sensation.

Preventing Itchy Mouth

Keeping your mouth clean and free of excess plaque buildup is the best way to avoid itchy mouth. But also, pay attention to what you eat! Read the labels and ask about ingredients to make sure you’re not ingesting something that you’re allergic to. Finally, make sure you stay up-to-date on your dental checkups. Issues like wisdom tooth eruption or a cavity may need some type of intervention before swelling, infection, or itchiness ever start.

Relief At Home

Here’s what to do at home if you’re trying to treat itchy gums:

1) Take an OTC Antihistamine

This option is for people who are experiencing a suspected allergic reaction.

2) Brush and Floss

More than likely, your itchy gums are coming from plaque accumulating along your gumlines. Thorough brushing and flossing are a must!

3) Rinse

Rinsing with warm salt water can help to draw out minor inflammation if your gums are irritated. Antimicrobial mouthwash can also help lift away anything your toothbrush or floss missed.

Overcoming Itchy Gums

Having itchy gums usually means you either have a gum infection, are experiencing an allergic reaction, or there’s an area of irritation that needs your attention. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Work with your dentist to nail down the diagnosis, so that you can treat your itchy gums before it turns into a more serious issue.

© 2022 Teeth Talk Girl