Reasons Your Gums Are Swollen Around One Tooth

Updated: Oct 14

Your gums can be swollen around just one tooth if you happen to have a dental condition that has a localized effect affecting a single tooth. Some of these conditions could be tooth decay related, infections, trauma, or gum problems.


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Why your gum is swollen around one tooth:



Food lodged in your gums

It is not uncommon for certain types of food to get stuck in your gums and cause it to swell because you're unable to remove it on your own. You may have tried brushing, flossing, and even using a tooth pick to try to dislodge it but with no success. This usually happens if the food makes its way deep into the gums, where you're unable to get access to it.


Common foods that may get stuck in your gums:

  • Popcorn kernels

  • Fish bones

  • Taco shells and tortillas

  • Seeds and nuts

Basically anything that is small and hard can potentially get lodged into your gums while you're eating. The gums won't swell up immediately but you'll notice it grow in size over the next few days. It'll also start bleeding more easily.


Treatment

Usually requires a visit to the dentist because you've obviously been trying for days to remove the stuck food. Your dentist will be able to scale it out with a sharp stainless steel instrument. If the gums are swollen enough, they may need to pop the abscess on the gums and drain it.


Afterwards, you should rinse with salt water after every meal to ensure that more food doesn't get stuck there. The saline rinse will also help minimize the swelling and bleeding.


Alternatively, your dentist may also concurrently prescribe you an antibiotic mouth rinse to use, in order to help the gums tighten up faster.


Prevention: There isn't a way to prevent it from happening again because you can't control where the food goes in your mouth once you start chewing. If anything you can try chewing slower or perhaps avoid hard foods in general.



Tooth abscess

A tooth abscess would certainly cause the gums to swell around one tooth because the infection only affects one tooth. It is unlikely for you to have multiple abscesses at one time unless your oral hygiene is just that bad. Therefore, the majority of tooth abscesses would only affect the gums on a single tooth.


The abscess usually forms as a result of an untreated cavity that started off as early tooth decay in the enamel but is allowed to progress into the pulp. Once the decay reaches the pulp, the bacteria will travel down the root of the tooth and into the bone. The abscess will form in the bone and eat its way through the bone to form a swelling on the gums.


This swelling on the gums will look like a pimple by the side of the tooth. Most people refer to it as a gum boil but it is much more serious than how it sounds. That harmless looking pimple on the gums comes from a tooth abscess.


Here is what a tooth abscess that has formed a swelling on the gums looks like:

  • This is an abscess with swelling around the back tooth molar.

  • You can see a pimple on the gums next to the back tooth.


Treatment

The only way to get rid of a tooth abscess is by treating the source of the infection, which is coming from the tooth itself. Only a dentist will be able to cure a tooth abscess so all home remedies will have no effect on this condition.


Treatment usually involves a root canal to remove the infected nerve and then possibly draining the abscess as well. After the infection clears, your dentist will put a crown on the root canal tooth to protect it.


Prevention: The only way to prevent a tooth abscess from causing your gums to swell is by treating it before it gets to that stage. All abscess begin as a small cavity but unfortunately due to neglect, it is left to grow unhindered into an infection. If you simply got rid of the cavity by doing a cavity filling, it would've never had the opportunity to develop into an infection.


This is why it is important to go in for your 6 month dental check ups so that you can catch them while they're small. That makes the procedures less complicated and less expensive!



Gum disease

Gingivitis and periodontitis don't always have to affect the entire mouth, sometimes they can affect just one single region. Whenever gum disease affects just a single area, we call it localized gum disease.


Common symptoms of gum disease are inflamed gums that are swollen and bleed a lot, which fit our description of swollen gums around a tooth.


Usually gingivitis and periodontitis are caused by plaque and tartar formation around teeth. Therefore, swelling around a single tooth may be due to tartar that was not properly removed and allowed to cause swelling around it.


Sometimes it could affect a tooth with a crown on it as well because gum disease does not make a distinction between whether or not your tooth has a restoration on it or not.


Treatment

In order to cure gum disease, you must see your dentist for either a dental cleaning or a deep teeth cleaning. The reason is because once tartar forms on your teeth, it becomes extremely hard and calcified. This makes it impossible to remove with brushing and flossing. Only your dentist can remove it by using sharp tools to cut it off.


Prevention: However, once you have all of the tartar removed you can switch to home care and home remedies to prevent it from coming back.

  • Brush and floss at least twice a day.

  • Use a mouthwash such as Listerine or even coconut oil for oil pulling.

  • You should also try to avoid sugary foods that encourage bacteria to form plaque and tartar.



You haven't been keeping up with your oral hygiene routine

If you simply forgot to brush your teeth and floss for a few days, your gums can absolutely swell up but with reason for doing so. If that is the case, it is really your fault... You may want to resume your oral hygiene routine and see if the gum swelling goes away.


Treatment

  • Brush for at least 2 minutes twice a day.

  • Floss before going to bed.

  • Use a mouth rinse.

  • Repeat every single day for the rest of your life.

  • Go in for a dental check up every 6 months.


Your dentures aren't fitting properly

Ill fitting dentures can certainly cause your gums to swell around one tooth, especially if the partial denture has metal clasps on it. These metal hooks could be too tight and that can compress the gums around the tooth it is trying to hook onto.


Treatment

You would need to see your dentist for a denture adjustment. If the metal hook is too tight around the gums, your dentist can loosen it up for you so that there is less pressure. This adjustment is fairly quick and should only take about 15-20 minutes so you better make an appointment with your dentist!


Alternatively, you can also have a new set of dentures made but that would be excessively if it only irritates a single tooth.


Prevention: There isn't any way to prevent this from happening because if it is a new denture, you may not know that it is irritating you until you start eating with it.




Takeaway

It is common to have your gums swollen around one tooth because there are plenty of dental conditions which affect a singular tooth. At least it takes the guesswork out of which tooth is the problem since only one of them is swollen.


Treatment for it would depend on what caused the swelling most of them require professional intervention by your dentist. Don't forget to go in for your dental check up and cleaning every six months so that you don't end up with these problems.



Author: Written by Dr David Chen, an emergency dentist in long island city.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!