Gum pain, a common problem that is often accompanied by swelling of gums and tissues around the jaws and teeth. It emanates from conditions like diseased jaw, exposed tooth root, worn out enamel, dental cavities, as well as certain nutritional deficiencies.
Gum pain often increases while brushing teeth, as well as while eating or chewing food. Although tender and painful gums is not a disease in itself, such a condition may indicate some underlying disease, and demands immediate attention.
Inflammation and pain in the gums may simply be an outcome of aggressive brushing, or may be a manifestation of gum infections, gingivitis, pyorrhea, and vitamin deficiency. Gum pain may also be the result of dental plaques and cavities, temporomandibular joint diseases, and tooth extraction procedures.
Dental cavity is one of the most common reasons for toothaches and gum pain. These refer to small holes on the enamel and dentin, i.e. outer layers of the teeth. The outermost white and hard surface is the enamel; whereas the layer below the enamel is the dentin which is soft and yellow in color. These layers protect the inner tissues which comprise nerves and blood vessels of the tooth.
The oral microflora comprises certain bacteria which have the capacity to change sugars into acid. The dentin and the enamel are dissolved by these acids, which results in the formation of cavities. Many a time, there may be small cavities which may go unnoticed as they do not cause pain. However, if the cavities are large food may get collected or stuck inside them, and cause pain.
Gum disease or gingivitis is the next common reason for pain, and affects 15-20% of the world's population. In case of a gum disease, the soft tissues get inflamed. This may occur due to poor oral hygiene, plaque formation, and infection. Plaques refer to a sticky film formed on the dental surface due to saliva as well as acids and other substances secreted by the bacteria present on teeth. The early stages of gingivitis may be characterized by pain and bleeding gums. However, if neglected, this may progress to an advanced stage that involves decaying of the jaw bones.
Also called pyorrhea, these encompass conditions that involve inflammation of supportive tissues that present around the teeth. It is the result of poor oral hygiene and infections, causing an aggressive immune reaction that affects the gums and alveolar bones. It may lead to tooth loss, tender and painful gums, receding gum line, pus formation, and bad breath.
A tooth root comprises the lower two-third portion of the tooth, and is covered by gums and bone. Acids released by bacteria may dissolve the root bone, as a result of which, the bone starts to decay thereby exposing the roots. Since the bone and gum no longer protect the tooth root, it becomes sensitive to sour, cold, and hot food items. Such hypersensitivity may cause gum and jaw pain.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
These disorders involve pain and dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (the joint between the upper and lower jaws) as well as the associated muscles. Temporomandibular joint pain can also be due to traumatic experience like blow on the face, chronic or inflammatory arthritis, or pushing back of the mandible towards the ears while swallowing or chewing. Apart from jaw pain and gum pain, one may experience stiffness in the jaw muscles, difficulty while chewing, locking of the jaw, etc.
Deficiency of vital vitamins that are essential for the proper development of gums and teeth may also lead to gum pain. Deficiency of vitamins B5, B6, D, K may lead to sore and painful gums. Severe vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy which is characterized by spongy and bleeding gums along with fatigue, lethargy, and formation of spots on the skin. In addition to this, deficiency of minerals like iron, calcium and zinc may also be manifested through gum pain.
Tooth extraction refers to the surgical removal of tooth, and may necessary if the tooth is badly damaged. In some cases an existing tooth blocks another from coming out, especially in the case of wisdom teeth. As a result one may suffer from severe pain, and the tooth may need to be extracted. Gum pain after tooth extraction is a common phenomenon, and may alleviate in a few days.
The precise treatment depends on the underlying etiology, and may involve the administration of analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) for gum pain relief.
» If gum pain is caused due to small dental cavities, it may be treated by filling those cavities. In case of large cavities a crown needs to be fitted. If the cavity has penetrated significantly to expose the blood vessels and nerves of the tooth, either the tooth is extracted or a root canal procedure is performed. In a root canal procedure, the dying tissue is removed and replaced with an inert material.
» If gum disease is the cause, good oral hygiene is recommended, and the key treatment involves removing the bacterial plaque. If it is in advanced stage, thorough cleaning of the teeth is required. The deep cleaning processes usually employed include root planing and subgingival curettage. In root planing, the plaque formed due to accumulation of saliva, bacteria and food is removed. On the other hand subgingival curettage is the process wherein the inflamed layer of the tissue is removed.
» Topical fluoride gels and special toothpastes which contain fluorides may be prescribed to help maintain the enamel, and prevent it from wearing out.
» Antibiotics and antibacterial mouthwashes may be recommended to alleviate and avoid gum infections.
Gum pain may be caused due to several reasons; the most common being unhygienic oral conditions and dental cavities, that can be avoided easily. However, appropriate medical consultation at the right time is extremely essential to deal with any existing dental problems, and avoid any possible complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.