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You emerge from a refreshing shower and head to the mirror to check yourself. What’s this? Your gums are a bit, well … red and sore!

Sore gums can be attributed to a variety of different causes – ranging from dental problems to nutritional deficiencies. If your gums don’t look or feel right to you, it’s important to find the cause – and a solution. Here’s some basic advice…

Gingivitis – Sounds tasty, like ginger or something – but not so!

A common cause of sore gums is a gum disease known as gingivitis. Although gingivitis may be pain-free, as it progresses the gums become sore – particularly when brushing the teeth. Other symptoms of more advanced gum disease are bleeding when brushing the teeth, red gums, bad breath, and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease and tooth loss.

Periodontal disease also causes low-grade inflammation which increases the risk of heart disease. If you’re having sore gums – particularly if they’re bleeding – see your dentist soon as you can!

Abscess makes the heart grow fonder. Wait. That can’t be right!

If a discrete area of the gum is sore, it could be a dental abscess. The pain of a dental abscess is usually localized to the area just under the abscessed tooth. An abscess is usually quite painful and won’t go away on its own.

You’ll need antibiotics to treat the infection, and most likely, a root canal or tooth extraction to get the infection under control. An impacted wisdom tooth can also cause gum pain in a localized area.

Sore Gum Causes: Vitamin Deficiency?

Diffusely sore gums can be caused by a lack of Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, or Vitamin K. Vitamin B12 deficiency may also be associated with a red, beefy tongue and bleeding gums – and can lead to permanent neurological damage if not corrected. Vitamins C and K deficiencies also cause the gums to bleed. If your gums are diffusely sore, see your doctor to rule out vitamin deficiencies.

Other Yucky Causes

A painful aphthous ulcer, or canker sore, causes a discrete area of the gum to be painful, and if you look closely, you can usually see the characteristic blister. Other causes include medications, particularly cancer chemotherapy drugs, and eating poisonous plants or mushrooms.

In children, a condition called hand, foot, and mouth disease causes gum soreness, fever, skin rash, and mouth blisters. Sometimes allergic reactions to medications are responsible for sore gums.

The Bottom Line on Red and Sore Gums

Sore gums can be a sign of serious dental disease or a nutritional deficiency – among other causes. If your dentist gives you a clean bill of health, follow up with your doctor to get a diagnosis. This is a symptom you don’t want to ignore.

Primary Source: Merck Manual

Contributed by: Kristie Leong M.D.

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