The health of your mouth plays a significant role in your overall well-being. A dental problem like a gum boil can directly impact the quality of your life. That’s because it can be quite painful and usually a sign of an underlying infection.
If you have a gum boil, it is important that you get yourself checked by a dentist. This is even if the boil has popped on its own. The infection needs to be treated; otherwise, it can spread to the whole body, which can be life-threatening.
What Is A Gum Boil?
A gum boil, also known as a parulis, is a pus-filled abscess that forms on the gum tissue. It looks like a red, swollen bump or a pimple. It develops as a result of a bacterial infection. Depending on the location of the gum boil, they are of three different types:
- Gingival Abscess – Gingiva is the pink tissue that surrounds the base or neck of the teeth. If a boil forms in that area, it is known as a gingival abscess.
- Periodontal Abscess – When a gum boil forms deeper into the gum tissue, it is known as a periodontal abscess. Periodontal pockets (small openings between the gum and the tooth) are most commonly affected. The periodontal abscess is more dangerous because it can damage connective tissue fibres (periodontal ligament) and the alveolar bone to which it is attached.
- Pericoronal Abscess – This kind of abscess forms around the tooth that is still in the process of eruption, but it’s either growing at an odd angle or stuck below the gum tissue due to lack of space in the mouth. Pericoronal abscess usually forms around the wisdom tooth.
According to a study published in the British Dental Journal, the incidence of periodontal abscess was the highest. A gingival abscess is the least common. Regardless, you should keep in mind that this abscess can be dangerous. It can further deteriorate your oral health if you don’t get professional help.
Here, it should also be noted that there’s a difference between a tooth abscess and a gum abscess. The former affects the root of the tooth, while the latter affects the gum tissue.
What Causes A Gum Boil?
There are different causes for the formation of a gum boil. These are as follows:
A gum boil most commonly affects patients who have periodontal disease (gum infection). The inflammation and infection pull the gum tissue away from the neck of the teeth, creating bigger openings for bacteria from tartar and food particles to get stuck in, causing pus to form. The periodontal pocket can be further blocked if the tartar is pushed deeper into the tooth.
A gum boil can also form as a result of wearing dentures that do not fit properly. They can irritate the gum tissue and cause an infection. In this case, it is important that you get the denture readjusted.
Your gum tissue can get infected if you’ve experienced dental trauma. Even if it affects the tooth, the infection can spread to the surrounding gum. The same can happen if the tooth starts to decay. Also, this problem is exacerbated if you’re suffering from a health condition that weakens the immune system.
Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which the blood sugar level is abnormally elevated either because not enough insulin is being produced or the cells in the body are not taking that sugar. This condition also affects oral health in that it increases the risk of gum disease. According to a study published in the Annals of Periodontology, those with diabetes mellitus are more likely to develop periodontal abscesses.
What Are Gum Boil Symptoms?
If you have a gum boil, you may have the following signs and symptoms:
- Bad breath
- Difficulty eating or talking
- Sensitivity to hot and cold foods
While you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should be careful while brushing your teeth. Make sure to use a toothbrush that has soft bristles. Additionally, you should stick to soft foods like mashed potatoes and yoghurt. Do not consume foods that are too hot or cold or have high sugar content. After consulting with your dentist, you may take painkillers to manage the pain until your appointment.
It should also be noted that a gum boil may rarely be a symptom of oral cancer. That’s why it’s important to get yourself checked immediately. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the whole body in what’s known as sepsis. If that happens, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe abdominal pain
How To Get Rid of A Gum Boil?
You need to seek the help of a dentist for the treatment of a gum boil. They will first perform a physical exam and even take an X-ray. Depending on the severity and cause of the problem, you may undergo one or more of the following treatments.
It is possible for a gum boil to pop on its own (which will leave a bad taste in your mouth). However, if that hasn’t happened, the dentist may have to drain the gum boil. This will help reduce the discomfort that you’re experiencing.
Since it can be painful, you will be given local anaesthesia beforehand. To perform this procedure, the dentist will first make an incision. The drainage allows the pus to come out. Once that has happened, you will rinse your mouth with saltwater. Your dentist may also prescribe you an antiseptic mouthwash to make sure that the infection doesn’t come back.
It is likely that your dentist will prescribe you antibiotics so that the infection doesn’t spread. Usually, amoxicillin is given for that, along with clavulanic acid. If you have a penicillin allergy, you should make sure to inform your doctor. In that case, you’d be prescribed an alternative antibiotic like clindamycin.
If the cause of the gum boil is periodontal disease in which the gum pockets have trapped bacteria and food particles, you’ll need a deep cleaning procedure. This usually happens once you’ve had the pus drained. Deep cleaning involves scaling and root planing.
In scaling, a hooked metal tool removes the plaque surrounding the teeth. While root planing is needed if the gum pockets are too deep. The procedure will essentially smooth the roots of the tooth and clean them. In addition to getting rid of the bacteria, the dentist will also remove any dead tissue.
If the infection has spread to your gums due to a decayed tooth, you might need a root canal. In this, the dentist will remove the infected pulp at the centre of the tooth and clean the canals. These will then be filled with gutta-percha and topped with a dental crown.
One study published in the Journal of Periodontology showed that periodontal abscesses could frequently result in tooth loss. Therefore, you might end up needing implant-supported crowns. If the problem’s too serious, it might also become necessary to remove the surrounding teeth.
As mentioned earlier, if left untreated, a periodontal abscess can damage the alveolar bone. If that has happened, your dentist might recommend bone graft surgery. For this, the bone is usually taken from another area of the body. An incision in the jawline is made, and the bone is attached to the deteriorated area.
How To Care for A Gum Boil At Home?
You can do a few things to take care of your gum boil at home. However, keep in mind that these measures will not treat the infection. For that, you’d have to go to your dentist.
- Saltwater – In half a cup of water, add half a teaspoon of salt and mix it. Use it to gargle 1-2 times a day for a week. A saltwater rinse can help with the pain and swelling of the gum boil.
- Ice Pack – Cold can help reduce swelling and inflammation in an area. For a gum boil, you can consider applying an ice pack to your cheek for 10-20 minutes. Make sure to wrap the ice in a thin cloth.
- Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse – You can create a hydrogen peroxide rinse at home by mixing 1 part of it with 2 parts of water. Since hydrogen peroxide is antibacterial, it can help with the infection. Make sure to spit the rinse out after swishing it in your mouth for 30 seconds.
- Essential Oils – Certain essential oils, like clove, peppermint and cinnamon, can be used because they have analgesic and/or antimicrobial properties. To use these, you can mix a drop of this oil in water to make a rinse. You can also consider mixing it with a carrier oil like coconut oil.
Gum Boil: Can I Pop It?
You should never pop a gum boil on your own. This can worsen the infection or spread it further within the body. A saltwater rinse can help bring the gum boil to a head, and it may pop on its own, but you shouldn’t try squeezing the pus out yourself.
Will A Gum Boil Heal On Its Own?
A gum boil cannot heal on its own. If it results from another oral health problem, you need to address it. Keep in mind that delaying treatment can result in the spread of the infection, which can be fatal. You should not wait for the gum boil to heal on its own or pop (even if it pops, get yourself checked).
How Can You Prevent A Gum Boil?
You can do the following to decrease the risk of getting a gum boil:
- Practice good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Reduce the intake of foods that have high sugar content.
- Quit smoking
- Get regular dental checkups (twice every year).
A gum boil is a painful pus-filled swelling that usually forms due to gum disease. Keep in mind that a gum boil cannot heal on its own. You need to get the underlying infection treated. For that, make sure to visit a dentist. If the pus hasn’t drained already, the dentist might first do the drainage and then proceed with other treatments.