Have you noticed a small red or white bump on your gums that looks like a small pimple? Known as a gum boil or abscess, these small bumps are similar to a pimple you find on your face. While you may be tempted to pop pimples on your face, popping a gum boil can spread infection and, in some cases, make matters worse.
Here we take a close look at these “gum pimples” and why they develop, how you should treat them, and ways to prevent them from appearing.
- Understand what a gum boil or abscess is.
- Explore the causes of gum boils and how to identify them.
- Learn about gum boil treatment and prevention.
Can you get pimples on your gums?
Pimples develop on your skin as a result of built-up oil, dead skin, dirt, and bacteria. When these materials build up, they combine to form the pus-like substance that comes out when you pop a pimple. Gum boils form in a similar way but with plaque, food particles, and bacteria forming the pus-like substance. So, while they are not traditional pimples on your gums, they are very similar.
What are gum boils?
A gum boil, or abscess, is a pus-filled, swollen bump found on your gums. When bacteria, plaque, and food particles are not removed through an effective oral hygiene routine, they can become trapped within pockets found in the gum tissue and result in a gum abscess. These abscesses are often red or white in color and can be painful and tender. If you find a gum boil, you may also experience a variety of additional symptoms that can include:
- Pain and tenderness in the mouth
- Swollen gums
- Hot and cold sensitivity
- Bleeding or a pus-like discharge from the area
- Bad breath
- A fever
- Ear or jaw pain
Gum boils are categorized into three different types based on their location: a gingival abscess at the gum line, a periapical abscess, or tooth abscess, at the tooth root, and a periodontal abscess in any other tooth-supporting tissue.
Causes of gum boils
A gum boil or abscess is caused by the build-up of bacteria in the mouth and gums and is a sign of a serious infection. In most cases, gum boils occur as the result of gum disease, tooth decay, and poor oral hygiene. However, trauma to the gums or teeth, gum surgery, or weakened immune symptoms can also contribute to the cause of a gum boil. In very rare cases, a gum boil can be a sign of oral cancer.
How to know the pimple on the gums is a boil
While most cases of “pimples” on the gums are gum boils or abscesses, you can also develop oral cysts, canker sores, fibromas, and oral cancer tumors. So, how do you know if your pimple is a gum boil? Unlike the other possible causes of oral bumps, gum boils are also accompanied by the symptoms listed above.
How to treat gum boils
Because a gum boil is a serious oral infection, it is best treated by your general dentist. In most cases, your dentist will prescribe an antibiotic to control the infection and treat the abscess based on its location. Possible treatments can include:
- Drainage of the dental abscess if it is not draining on its own
- Root canals when the abscess is due to tooth decay
- Deep cleanings when the abscess is due to gum disease
- Oral appliance adjustments when your braces or dentures are causing the abscess
While seeing your dentist as soon as possible is recommended when you suspect an abscess, there are some home remedies that can help alleviate your discomfort. These include:
- Saltwater mouthwash made with 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of warm water
- Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash with 1 part 3% hydrogen peroxide to 2 parts water
- Applying clove oil or tea tree oil to the affected area
- Rinsing your mouth with garlic juice
Preventing gum boils
Because gum boils and abscesses are typically caused by a buildup of bacteria, the best way to prevent the development of these oral pimples is to follow a quality oral hygiene routine. This includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and seeing your dentist at least twice a year for checkups and cleanings. Other preventative measures include reducing the number of sugary drinks and foods you consume and quitting smoking. Smoking and using chewing tobacco are major contributors to gum disease and can affect your body’s ability to heal and can increase your risk of developing gum boils after dental treatments and surgeries.
Keeping your smile healthy
Increased bacteria in your mouth due to gum disease, decayed teeth, or poor overall oral hygiene can increase your risk of developing gum boils and abscesses. If you have gum disease or dental decay, it is best to see your dentist as soon as possible to treat these conditions in order to avoid an abscess. This serious bacterial infection requires immediate treatment from your dentist as, without treatment, a severe oral infection can spread to other areas of your body and increase your risk of additional health complications.
Address an abscess as soon as possible
If you find a pimple on your gums, it is important to see your dentist for treatment as soon as possible. At Soundview Family Dental, our caring team understands how an oral abscess can make you feel anxious and uncomfortable, and we work with you to provide quality, caring treatment and get you on the road to healthy oral health and a beautiful smile. To learn more about your treatment options, schedule an appointment today.