What to know about gum boils
Gum boils, or abscesses, are a sign of bacterial infection. They are more common in people with gum disease or people who have recently had dental surgery. In these cases, plaque and food can enter pockets in the gums, leading to an overgrowth of bacteria.
There are two types of gum boils. One type is more serious, and it forms closer to the tooth. The underlying infection requires prompt medical attention and, often, a root canal.
Untreated gum infections can spread to other areas of the body. Typically, antibiotics and dental procedures are necessary to treat gum boils. Home remedies can alleviate discomfort and prevent further problems.
A bacterial infection or tooth decay can cause gum boils.
Image credit: Dr P. Marazzi/Science Source
A gum boil, or abscess, may result from bacterial infection within gum tissue. The medical name for this is a periodontal abscess.
In other cases, tooth decay or trauma can lead to an infection that develops within the tooth and spreads to the gums. A person may notice a boil forming close to the tooth, likely near the root. This is called a periapical abscess.
Anyone who thinks that they have a periapical abscess should see a dentist right away, as a root canal may be necessary to save the tooth.
Symptoms that accompany a gum boil include:
- pain, swelling, and tenderness in the mouth
- bleeding or discharge from the boil or gums
- bad breath
- a fever
- an earache
Gum boils are a sign of infection, and treatment is crucial to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the mouth and body.
If the infection spreads, it can result in the loss of a tooth, or it can be life threatening, if the bacteria enter the bloodstream, for example.
People with gum boils should see their dentists for diagnosis and treatment. Usually, medications are necessary to get rid of the infection. As the infection clears up, home remedies can provide relief and prevent further boils from developing.
Medication and dental procedures
To treat the infection and prevent further boils, a dentist may recommend one or a combination of the following treatments:
The first step is to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection. As boils form below the gumline, where topical treatments cannot reach, antibiotics are usually necessary.
Usually, bacteria are able to infect the gums because of gum disease or tooth decay.
Deep cleaning and a similar procedure called scale and root planing can remove plaque and tartar and help the gums heal.
Adopting better oral hygiene habits can often help prevent abscesses from returning.
A dentist may need to drain the pus from the bump. This can relieve any pain and help the area heal more quickly.
Gum boils sometimes result from irritation due to poorly fitting dentures or partial dentures. In these situations, a dentist can adjust the dentures to prevent further irritation.
If a person has a periapical abscess, possibly from tooth decay, they will likely need a root canal to treat the infection.
Severe gum infections can damage nearby teeth and bones. In these rare cases, a dentist may perform surgery to remove the tooth or address any bone damage.
Home care and natural remedies
Often, gum boils develop because of poor dental hygiene.
Home care and natural treatments can reduce the symptoms of gum boils and prevent them from forming.
It is important to note that home remedies can rarely treat an established infection. Usually, antibiotics are necessary.
Home care can involve:
Good oral hygiene
Brushing the teeth twice a day can help prevent gum boils.
Effective oral hygiene can keep gum boils, gum disease, tooth decay, and other dental issues at bay.
- brushing the teeth twice a day
- flossing daily
- seeing a dentist at least twice a year for a checkup and cleaning
- avoiding sugary foods and drinks
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), smoking is the most significant risk factor for gum disease. It can also reduce the effectiveness of gum disease treatment.
Quitting smoking and chewing tobacco can, therefore, reduce the risk of gum disease and help the gums heal after treatment.
Salt is naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
A 2016 study suggests that a saltwater rinse can promote gum health and improve the healing of mouth ulcers.
To make a saltwater rinse:
- Mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of warm water.
- Swish the mixture around in the mouth for approximately 30 seconds before spitting it out.
- Repeat 2–3 times daily.
Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash
Hydrogen peroxide has antibacterial properties, which means that it can help treat gum disease, which is a common cause of boils.
Using hydrogen peroxide may also reduce the pain and inflammation of existing gum boils.
Authors of a 2017 study found that participants who used a hydrogen peroxide treatment for gum disease had significantly fewer symptoms than a control group who did not receive this treatment.
To make a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash:
- Mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 2 parts water.
- Swish this mixture around in the mouth for several seconds before spitting it out.
- Repeat the process twice daily.
Turmeric is a popular, natural anti-inflammatory. Its active ingredient, curcumin, may prevent gum disease, according to one study.
This research suggests that using a turmeric mouthwash for 1 minute twice daily can remove bacteria and plaque and reduce inflammation.
Another study reports that turmeric may reduce dental pain and help treat periodontal diseases.
To use turmeric for oral health, try mixing a small amount into regular toothpaste, then brushing as usual.
Essential oils might help combat germs within the mouth.
Various essential oils can inhibit microbial activity. People tend to use peppermint, clove, or cinnamon oils to support dental health.
A chemical in clove oil, eugenol, is a common ingredient in dental products and treatments. A study in rats cited widely recognized anesthetic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties of eugenol, which may treat tooth decay.
Cinnamon oil contains antibacterial and antifungal properties, and research indicates that it may prevent bacterial diseases in the mouth.
To use essential oils for oral health, a person can add 1 drop to their regular toothpaste or mouthwash. To make a rinse, mix 1 drop of essential oil with a quarter cup of water.
Another option is to add 1 drop of oil to 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Apply the mixture directly to the affected area in the mouth.
Many carrier oils are available to purchase online.
Gum boils, or abscesses, result from bacterial infection. A person has a higher risk of this infection if they have gum disease or if they have recently had dental treatment.
The infection may occur within gum tissue. Or, it may develop within the tooth before spreading to the gums. In this case, the boil will appear close to the tooth, and a person should see a dentist right away.
For anyone with a gum abscess, it is important to see a dentist. Without treatment, the infection may spread throughout the mouth and to other parts of the body.
While home remedies are unlikely to clear up an infection, they can alleviate pain and help prevent further abscesses from forming. Tips include practicing good oral hygiene and using natural antimicrobials, such as salt and essential oils.