In many oral health routines, the gums are often neglected. Many people dismiss swollen or sour gums as symptoms of cavities. Gum health is important and should be part of any oral health schedule. Gums are meant to care for the teeth and keep them in good health. In many cases, periodontal disease is the cause of sensitive gums but in some cases, it is caused by other oral irritants. This article will discuss the difference between sensitivity in teeth and gums, what causes gums to become sensitive, the symptoms to look out for, and the common remedies for this condition.
Difference between Sensitive Gums and Sensitive Teeth
Sensitive gums refer to any kind of irritation in one’s gums. Gum sensitivity may be caused by gingivitis which is characterized by tender, swollen, or bleeding gums. Receding gums are also characteristic of having sensitive gums. Sensitive gums are also caused by many other factors besides gum disease including one’s brushing method, hormonal fluctuations, acidic foods, and appliance irritation.
Gum sensitivity brought by gingivitis or gum disease is a result of poor oral health. Plaque is the main cause of this sensitivity because it accumulates along one’s gum line and leads to gum disease if not treated.
On the other hand, tooth sensitivity occurs when one’s dental tissues wear out. Each tooth has four dental tissues: the enamel, dentin, cementum, and pulp. Enamel is the outermost part that protects your tooth from getting damaged. Beneath the enamel is the dentin, a yellowish tissue that contains canals that transport substances to the center of your tooth. Cementum is a hard tissue that protects the root of your tooth whereas the pulp is soft tissue situated at the center of your tooth to supply blood and nutrients.
When your enamel wears down, the dentin is exposed creating a passage to the nerves. Therefore, when your dentine is subject to external stimulus like pressure, heat, cold, sweet, or sour conditions, you experience a sharp pain which is tooth sensitivity.
What Causes Sensitive Gums
Brushing hard can ruin your gums and push them from the base of the teeth. When brushing your teeth and gums, it is advisable to use a brush with soft bristles and polishing cups which enable you to brush gently. Additionally, you should ensure that you use a tooth paste for sensitive gums.
Hormonal fluctuations can cause sensitivity in your gums. According to a report by the New York Times blog, gingivitis often develops when one is going through puberty and recurs in one’s lifetime due to hormonal changes. Hormonal changes during puberty increase blood flow to your gums making them turn red, swell, and become sensitive. Pregnancy gingivitis causes the same symptoms and begins around the third month and goes through to the eighth month. Some women with menopause experience dry gums which are sore and more likely to bleed.
Too much orange drinks and foods that are salty or contain vinegar cause canker sores. When you eat to many acidic foods, your gums are irritated and you are likely to suffer from gum recession.
Oral appliances like retainers, braces, mouth guards, and dentures tend to tug at one’s gumline making it tender. In some people, the sensitivity of gums fades when one’s mouth has adapted to the oral appliance. It is advisable to consult your orthodontist or dentist to make sure you get an oral appliance that fits correctly and causes you less sensitivity.
Symptoms of Sensitive Gums
While the cause of sensitive gums is commonly associated with gingivitis, many of the above mentioned factors may trigger gums sensitivity. Whichever the case, some of the symptoms that point to gum sensitivity include:
- A change in one’s bite
- Deep pockets between the gums and teeth
- Bleeding gums
- Shifting or loose teeth
- Bad taste or bad breath
- Red, tender, or swollen gums
- Receding gums
- Sensitivity to hot or cold conditions
3 Efficient Home Remedies for Gum Sensitivity
1. Warm and Cold Compresses
Compresses give you fast relief from swollen and sore gums by reducing swelling and pain. You should hold the compress against the face and not directly on your swollen gums.
- Soak a cloth in warm water and wring any excess liquid.
- Place the warm cloth against your face for five minutes.
- Wrap a handful of frozen peas in a small cloth and place it against your face till you feel slightly numb.
- Repeat both of these procedure 2-3 times as often as needed.
2. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide helps reduce pain and inflammation in your gums. It also helps kill germs and fights against oral problems. Experts advise people to use 3 percent, food grade hydrogen peroxide for fighting gum sensitivity.
- Mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide with water. Swish the solution around your teeth and gums for 30 seconds.
- Rinse off the solution using warm water.
- Mix one tea spoon of baking soda with an equivalent amount of hydrogen peroxide to form a paste.
- Apply the paste on your gums and leave it for one minute. Rinse off the paste with water.
- Use any of these remedies 2-3 times in a week.
- Take care not to swallow hydrogen peroxide as it is highly toxic.
Turmeric contains curcumin, an element that has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that help reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. It also prevents the spread of bacteria which leads to many oral problems. Turmeric helps relieve swollen gums.
- Mix ¼ of a teaspoon of turmeric with enough water to form a paste.
- Apply the paste on your gums.
- Leave the paste for 5 minutes.
- Rinse off the paste using warm water.
- Repeat this procedure twice everyday for 1-2 weeks.
Although the symptoms of gum sensitivity and tooth sensitivity appear to be the same, both conditions are very different. Tooth sensitivity arises when the protective layers of the tooth deteriorate whereas gum sensitivity mainly arises due to gum disease and factors including one’s oral hygiene practices, hormones, oral appliances, and diet.
The main remedies used for treating sensitive gums include warm and cold compresses, hydrogen peroxide, and turmeric powder. For more information on gum sensitivity, share your experiences, questions, and thoughts, and help us explore this topic from all angles.