Causes of Sore Gums

What are the reasons people experience sore gums?

There are a variety of conditions that can cause your gums to be sore. Some ailments are of dental origin and some are not. You may need professional help from a dentist or physician with some of the causes of sore gums described on this page. Please keep in mind that gum conditions that are generally painless have not been included here. An example is Vitamin C deficiency, or scurvy, which causes bleeding gums, but the gums are not painful. The common forms of gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis, also produce bleeding, but usually not painful gums.

If you have sore gums and would like Dr. Gilbert’s help, just complete a simple form to contact Dr. Gilbert for his free, no obligation ​nutritional consultation. In many cases, he may be able to help you find relief with a customized program of organic whole food and all natural supplements.

So let’s take a look at each one of these sore gum causes.

Canker sores, also called apthous ulcers, are painful, round, sores that show up in several places in the mouth, such as on the inside of the lips, inside the cheeks, on the tongue, and at the base of the gums. Canker sores are easily confused with cold sores caused by the herpes virus. One way to distinguish between the two is that canker sores occur inside the mouth, whereas herpetic sores are generally seen on the outside of the body, including the lips.

Canker sores

Canker sores usually last about two weeks and fortunately, the period of discomfort when your gums are sore is often only a few days for most people. Most dental researchers say the exact cause of canker sores is not known, and the traditional dental opinion is that there is no way to prevent canker sores. Canker sores generally heal with out any intervention or scaring, although larger ones, a half inch across or bigger, may leave scars.

If you want to read more about canker sores from a traditional dental viewpoint, look at this brief overview of canker sores as reviewed by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

Although the cause of canker sores seems to be unknown, most current theories involve an abnormality of the body’s immune system. If that is the case, doesn’t it make sense to nourish and strengthen your immune system as much as possible to minimize the risk of getting canker sores?

Provide your whole body, including your immune system, with the critical nourishment it needs to make it as strong and healthy as possible.


Teething generally starts between 3 and 9 months of age, when your infant’s baby teeth will begin to erupt or emerge into the mouth. Since teething can make your child irritable or fussy and may cause restlessness, drooling or loss of appetite, it is safe to assume that it causes the gums to be sore or painful at the spot where the tooth is trying to break through.

As your child grows older, and adult teeth erupt, teething pain can be experienced again. Adults can also experience teething pain and sore gums years later, when their wisdom teeth try to emerge into the mouth. Sometimes this can be a long process, with episodes of soreness where the wisdom tooth is trying to push through the gum tissue.

​Since teething is a normal process which results in injury or stress to the gums, it is generally self limiting and self healing. Teething rings for infants or applying pressure over the gums by rubbing them with a clean finger can help relieve symptoms. For older children or adults, a variety of over the counter remedies to relieve symptoms, are readily available at health food stores.

Flossing too vigorously

Flossing too vigorously can physically injure your gums and cause bleeding and pain. However, it is safe to assume that bleeding without any pain is a sign of gum disease and not excessive flossing. Let your dentist’s hygienist or assistant teach you how to floss properly if you are not sure how to do it correctly. This is a very important and effective way to reduce the burden on your immune system, and keep your breath fresh, because flossing is an easy way to remove dental plaque, which is always loaded with germs, and toxins from the germs.

Dental treatments

Dental treatments, such as fillings, caps or crown, dentures, implants, braces, and surgery, just to name a few, are notorious for producing injury to your gums, and pain from the injury. A variety of over the counter remedies to relieve symptoms are readily available at health food stores or pharmacies. Healing of injured gum tissue can be promoted, supported, and enhanced with effective nutritional supplementation.

Hot foods

Hot foods can create burns on the roof of your mouth, and sometimes on your gums, which would then become painful. Health food stores usually have homeopathic remedies which can safely help to significantly relieve the symptoms of sore gums which have been injured by hot foods. Naturally, you should see a doctor, preferably a holistic physician, if the burn is serious. As with injured gum tissue from dental treatments, healing of burned gum tissue can be promoted, supported, and enhanced with effective nutritional supplementation. 

Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (NUG)

Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (NUG) is a condition affecting the gums that, according to the traditional dental view, is “caused” by a bacterial infection in which a particular type of disease causing bacteria called spirochetes grow in large numbers. ‘Necrotizing’ means that gum tissue is destroyed, ‘Ulcerative, refers to sores that can appear on the gums, and ‘Gingivitis’ describes the inflamed condition of the gums.

Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis is unlike other forms of periodontal or gum disease, because it causes sore, painful gums. Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis typically develops quickly and causes moderate to severe pain, even when no pressure is placed on the gums. A unique sign of NUG is that the triangles of gum tissue between your teeth are destroyed, so they appear flattened or deflated and are no longer visible. This is why the word ‘necrotizing’ is used in the name. Other symptoms that occur are gums that bleed easily, a bad taste in the mouth or bad breath, a gray film on the gums, and a sore throat which may be accompanied by fever and swollen glands in the neck. In very severe cases, the infection can even lead to tooth loss. It’s not a pleasant condition to experience.

According to a website article reviewed by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, “Necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (NUG) is a condition affecting the gums that is caused by a bacterial infection.” The website also states that “Poor nutrition, infections in the mouth or throat and a weakened immune system [emphasis added] also increase the risk.” See for yourself what the website says.

But isn’t this getting the cart and the horse mixed up? Is a bacterial infection really a cause of NUG, Are the ‘risk factors’ really risk factors, or are they all simply insults to the immune system that weaken its ability to fend off infection by the bacteria that, according to the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine “cause” the infection?

Doesn’t it make sense that “a weakened immune system” is the real reason for the possibility of succumbing to the bacterial infection? Doesn’t it also make sense that the so called “risk factors” of smoking, stress, poor oral hygiene and poor nutrition contribute to the likelihood of developing Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis by further weakening the immune system? Doesn’t it make even more to reduce your risk of getting NUG by decreasing or eliminating the factors that stress your immune system, and adding as many factors as possible to strengthen your immune system?

One effective way to do this is to provide your whole body, including your immune system with all the vital nutrients and nourishment it needs to create excellent oral health and to heal any sore gums. See how you can easily accomplish this.

Pregnancy tumor

Pregnancy tumor or pyogenic granuloma is not a cancer, in spite of its name. It is a benign or harmless lump on the gums that usually appears during the second trimester of pregnancy and can sometimes cause your gums to be uncomfortable or painful.

Pregnancy tumors may be triggered by the hormonal changes of pregnancy. Some pregnancy tumors heal after the pregnancy is over. Others seem to have a more obvious cause such as having a lot of tartar on your teeth, which can irritate your gums. This can cause a pregnancy tumor to grow. So can poor oral hygiene. Some people who have studied pregnancy tumors believe they develop as an extreme inflammatory reaction to a local irritation, such as food particles or plaque.

Pregnancy tumors are usually attached to the gums by a narrow stem of tissue. They tend to form on already inflamed gum tissue, usually near the gum line. A pregnancy tumor may grow sufficiently in size to look like a large glistening red or purple lump with deep red pinpoint markings on it. Pregnancy tumors bleed easily, and may form an open sore or become crusted over, making eating and speaking difficult.

If you are a pregnant female, and you suspect you may have a pregnancy tumor, please speak to your dentist. You can reduce the chances of getting a pregnancy tumor by seeing your dentist regularly for cleanings and for completion of any recommended treatment, before you become pregnant. You can also reduce the likelihood of getting a pregnancy tumor by taking the nutritional steps that will support your body’s ability to maintain as normal a pregnancy as possible, including healthy gums. Like getting dental treatment, this is most effective when started before you become pregnant.†

For helpful information on how you can support your body’s ability to maintain healthy gums before and during pregnancy, read the page on all natural, organic and whole food supplements.

Pregnancy gingivitis

Pregnancy gingivitis is an exaggerated inflammation of the gums during pregnancy that may be the result of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. The hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy, especially the increased level of progesterone, may make it easier for certain bacteria to grow, as well as make gum tissue more sensitive to plaque and exaggerate the body’s response to the toxins or poisons that result from plaque. In fact, if you already have significant gum disease, being pregnant may make it worse. Typical symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis include swelling, bleeding and soreness or tenderness in the gums.

Practicing good oral hygiene habits, especially flossing, reduces the risk and severity of pregnancy gingivitis because it reduces the plaque on your teeth under your gums. Plaque is a soft, gooey substance of bacteria and other microorganisms clumped together in a gel-like material that sticks to the teeth. Reducing the plaque under the gums reduces the bacterial toxins in the plaque, which, in turn, reduces the stress on your immune system. If your immune system is trying to defend the health of your gums by coping with the bacteria in plaque and their toxins, doesn’t it make sense to also take effective steps to strengthen your immune system?

Cancers of the gums will usually be painful, especially if they are malignant, meaning life threatening. It is beyond the scope of this website to discuss all the possible tumors that may grow on or under the gums. Please see a physician, preferably a holistic one, as soon as possible if you have a growth on your gums and you are not sure what it is, or what to do about it. If you would like to find a holistic physician for care and treatment, go to the websites of the International College of Integrative Medicine (ICIM) or the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM). Each organization has a find a member search feature on their respective home page.