How To Treat a Gum Boil

A gum boil may look like a harmless pimple on the gums but it is actually an abscess coming from an infected tooth nerve. Another name for it is a parulis which is essentially a sinus tract that connects a tooth abscess from within the jaw to the oral cavity.


In other words, the gum boil is NOT the source of the infection but is rather a byproduct of a tooth abscess. It is an oral manifestation of an abscessed nerve.


In case you don't believe us, here is a video to show you how to trace the origin of a gum boil with a technique called gutta percha tracing:



Basically, what we do is stick a gutta percha cone (root canal filling material) straight into the pimple as far as we can and then take an x-ray of it. What you'll find on the x-ray is usually the cone leading directly to an abscessed tooth.


Gutta percha traced molar abscess
Gutta percha traced molar abscess

Therefore in order to successfully treat that pimple on the gums, you must address the abscessed nerve and only your dentist can do that. Treatment for it involves removing the infected nerve from the tooth and that procedure is called a root canal.


This article will go over how the treatment is rendered at the dentist. We'll also give some recommendations on how to speed up the healing with some home remedies after you get it treated by the dentist.



How to treat a gum boil at the dentist

In order to successfully treat a gum boil, you must treat the abscessed nerve and that requires a root canal. This is a procedure where your dentist physically extracts the nerve from your tooth and then disinfects the entire inside of the canals.


gum boil near molar

How your dentist does it and what to expect:

  1. Apply pre-numbing gel to the injection site.

  2. Administer local anesthetic to numb the tooth.

  3. Excavate all decay.

  4. Extirpate the abscessed tooth nerve.

  5. Disinfect the canals.

  6. Dry the canal.

  7. Place an antibiotic medication inside of the canals.

  8. Close the tooth up with a temporary filling.


The medication gets left inside of the tooth for about 1-2 weeks. Once you return, your dentist will check to see if the size of the boil on your gums have decreased or not. If it looks like there is no improvement, your dentist will do a second round of disinfectant.


Second round of disinfection:

  1. Remove temporary filling and open the tooth back up.

  2. Disinfect the canals once again.

  3. Clean out the tooth.

  4. Place medication inside of the canals again.

  5. Put a temporary filling back in.


Your dentist will keep repeating the disinfection step until the gum boil completely disappears. Once it goes away, it is a sign that your condition is improving and only at that time would root canal get filled in.


Here is a picture of gum boil that seems to be healing. It has deflated so it no longer protrudes from the gums. You can still see the red mark of where it use to be. If yours has decreased in size like this one, you're most likely heading towards the right direction. It should heal up in another week or so.


healing gum boil

You don't have to worry about draining the gum boil because with the root canal and antibiotic medication inside the canals, it will self drain. Remember, the pimple stays inflated because the source of the infection, which is the abscessed nerve keeps producing more infection. As long as you get rid of the source, it will self-drain and self-deflate all on its own without any intervention from you.


After the canals are filled in, you're officially done with the abscessed nerve treatment. The next step would be to get a dental crown. That'll be a whole experience in its own right but as a preview, it usually takes about 2 visits for it to be completed.


Related content: What gum boils look like.


What does the tooth x-ray look like when the root canal is done?

It may be difficult for you to tell if the root canal is finished but you can easily spot it on x-rays. Once the canals are filled in, it'll show white lines going through the roots of the teeth. Those radioopaque lines signify that the canals have been filled in.


completed root canals on x-rays

Aside from that, the pimple should've also disappeared from your gums. The tooth should also have stopped hurting since then. Both of which are positive signs that you are on your way to healing.



Alternative treatment if the root canal doesn't work

Unfortunately even with multiple rounds of disinfecting the tooth along with cleaning it out with the root canal, the gum boil still does not go away. If your gum pimple persists despite multiple rounds of treatment, the infection may be too severe to treat.


If your tooth happens to have a non-healing gum boil that does not go away, you most likely need to have the entire tooth extracted. In other words since removing the nerve from the tooth isn't enough, you'll need to remove the whole tooth.


extraction site with stitches
extraction site with stitches

Once the tooth is extracted, the infection should resolve. After about a week or two, the parulis should completely dissipate.


Possible reason why it was not healing

One common reason for a parulis that does not heal is if the tooth happens to have been fractured. You may not be able to see where the crack line is because if it is forming from INSIDE of the tooth, you'll never be able to see it.


The only treatment for fractured teeth would be an extraction. Your dentist will usually come to this conclusion via the process of elimination. If every treatment that you're trying on it doesn't work then it can only mean that there is fracture from within the tooth.


Although if you wanted to be absolutely certain, you can always get a CBCT scan which is a 3D scan of your jaw. With the extra dimension, the radiologist can usually pick up where the potential fracture is.


Here is an example of what the scan looks like:


CBCT of fractured molar

Related content: What causes gum boils.



How to treat a gum boil at home

These are home remedies that you can try to help the gum boil heal faster. Just so that we are clear, using these alone will not get rid of it because they're unable to treat the source of the infection. You must seek treatment with your dentist FIRST in order for the home remedies to have any effectiveness.


If you try to use these remedies first, you won't see any improvement in the size of the boil at all. In fact, it may even get bigger over time which is a sign that it is getting worse rather than getting better.


Although you may get some temporary pain relief by using these methods so it is still worth a try as a temporary measure. Nonetheless, you should still book an appointment with your dentist so that you can have a permanent fix.


How to make it heal faster:

  1. Use a mouth rinse frequently to keep it clean.

  2. Try chewing more on the opposite side to give it time to heal.

  3. Take painkillers if needed.

  4. You can also ice the area with a cold compress to numb it.


Common mouth rinses

Keeping the area clean is paramount to the healing process. A clean area will always heal better than one that is littered with plaque and food. Rinsing frequently will wash away any debris that may be around the gum boil.


Here are some common rinses that you can use:

  • Salt water

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Listerine

  • Oregano oil

  • Thyme oil

  • Clove oil


For the essential oils, all you need to do is to put a drop or two into some water. Then you just swish around for 1-2 minutes. Repeat as many times as necessary.


Chewing more on the other side

The side with the pimple on the gums needs time to heal so you should let it rest. Try your best to chew a little more on the opposing side. This will not only allow it to heal better but also prevent food and other debris from potentially getting lodged into the boil on the gums.


Painkillers

The gum boil may be painful so taking pain medication can always help alleviate some of the pain. It is even better if you take a NSAID such as ibuprofen since it helps with reducing inflammation in addition to reducing pain.


Cold compress

If you face feels a little swollen, you can always use a cold compress to help control it. The cold will not only numb the area but the pressure applied from the compress helps to reduce the swelling.


You can buy one from any pharmacy so it is quite accessible. If you can't find any you can always make your own.

  1. Put some ice cubes in a plastic bag.

  2. Wrap the bag with a wet paper towel.

  3. Place the bag on the affected side of the face for 15 minutes.

  4. Remove and rest for 15 minutes.

  5. Repeat steps #3-4 as needed.



Takeaway

The only way to treat a gum boil is by seeing a dentist because it is more than a pimple on the gums. It is in fact a tooth abscess that is coming from an infected nerve. The way to treat that is by removing the abscessed nerve via a root canal treatment.


That treatment is a physical process where the nerve needs to be pulled out of the tooth. That is the only way to get rid of this infection. Due to how physical the treatment is, it means that home remedies will have little if any effect at all.


Therefore, we do not recommend trying to treat this at home by yourself with DIY remedies. They won't work and what will most likely happen is that the condition will get worse. You'll notice the pimple increasing in size over time.


Thus, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist to have it treated properly. After you've done that, you may implement some home remedies to help it with healing. Although it is usually sufficient to leave it as is after the treatment with your dentist.


Learn more: If you were interested in knowing more about gum boils, we do have a full article on it!

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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!