People commonly complain of itchy gums despite not expecting the inside of their mouth to itch. This is especially true if they just had a dental treatment like root canal, extraction, filling, crown, dentures or implants.
Itchy gums aren’t something that you should take lightly because it’s usually a sign of a more serious oral health problem. And if it’s not addressed in time, it can cause even more problems for you.
This is why it’s important to know why your gums may be itchy and what you can do about them if they are.
Why Are My Gums Itchy?
Itchy gums can be due to one or more of the following reasons:
Poor Oral Health
One reason why gums can feel itchy is poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush your teeth or floss, the bacteria inside your mouth will form a sticky film on your teeth. Unless it’s dislodged, the bacteria will continue to build on it.
This plaque will irritate your gums and eventually trigger an inflammatory reaction, and your gums can feel itchy as a result of that. Of course, this is just one symptom of tartar formation.
The buildup of plaque around the teeth will eventually result in gum disease, gingivitis, or its more advanced form, periodontitis. And this too can make your gums feel itchy.
Allergic reactions are quite itchy. When it’s triggered, your body releases a chemical known as histamine. It makes some of the nerve cells send an “itch signal” to the brain and this is what ends up making you feel itchy.
If you put something in your mouth that you’re allergic to, it can also make the inside of your mouth feel itchy, including your gum tissue.
Many people also suffer from what’s known as oral allergy syndrome, which is triggered by allergens found in pollen and raw fruits and vegetables. This can also cause itchiness.
As mentioned above, many people complain of itchy gums after a dental treatment like a root canal, tooth extraction, implant placement, or gum grafting.
Normally, itching can be a sign of healing after an injury (even a surgical one). And it can happen during different stages of the wound-healing process.
For one, it can occur during the inflammatory stage when the body releases certain chemicals (like cytokines and histamines), which end up making the wound itch.
Itchiness can also occur during the “proliferation” stage when the new skin is forming. It’s believed that during this time, the nerve cells are stimulated, and that’s interpreted as an itch.
So, usually, it isn’t something that you need to worry about. Also, this isn’t just true for surgical wounds. You can also experience itching following a simple gum injury (cuts, toothbrush hitting hard, etc.).
Keep in mind, however, that certain post-op complications can make the wound itch excessively. If that’s the case, contact your dentist immediately.
Xerostomia or dry mouth can also make the gums feel itchy. It’s a condition in which the salivary glands don’t make enough saliva.
Consequently, it is hard to maintain a moist mouth, and eating and speaking cause discomfort as well.
Keep in mind that you can have a dry mouth due to different reasons, such as:
- Stress or anxiety
- Old age
- Health conditions
So, any of the above can cause itchy gums.
Hormonal changes can occur at different stages of life and they can also be the reason why your gums feel itchy.
This can happen during puberty, right before periods, pregnancy, or menopause because of the increased blood flow to the gum tissue.
Since these changes are usually temporary, your gums should get back to their normal state after your hormones have settled.
Keep in mind that even contraception like birth control pills that cause hormonal fluctuation can make the gums itch.
Poor Fit of Restorations
The fit of the dentures or crowns inside the mouth matters when it comes to preventing itchy gums.
That’s because if the restoration is loose, it leaves gaps for the bacteria to enter, which can cause infection and decay. And as mentioned above, infection of the gums can cause itchiness.
If your restorations feel loose, make sure you get in touch with your dentist to get them tightened.
There are some other causes for itchy gums.
For example, according to a case report published in the International Journal of Oral and Dental Health, itchy gums can be a sign of pulp necrosis (death of the pulp tissue inside the tooth) or an “unsuccessful endodontic treatment” (root canal is a common example of it).
Other than that, you can experience this problem due to smoking, teeth grinding, or even a viral infection.
Itchy gums are also reported by some people after flossing. That could be because you flossed too hard, irritating the gum tissue. This may be the reason why they feel itchy.
How To Relieve Itchy Gums?
If you need temporary relief at home, the following tips may help, but you should first consult your dentist.
- Saltwater rinse: Add one teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and mix it. Make sure you spit out the solution after swishing it in your mouth for about 30 seconds.
- Cold: Another popular home remedy for itchy gums is cooling the tissue. Using ice pops or cubes can also help soothe them.
- Limit spicy & acidic foods: Do not eat or drink spicy and acidic foods like citrus fruits, sodas, coffee. They can further irritate your gum tissue and worsen the itchiness.
Ensure that you speak with your dentist before trying these remedies because you may not always be suitable for them.
For instance, after certain dental procedures, dentists specifically ask patients to avoid doing anything that puts pressure on the surgical area (like sucking on an ice cube).
So sucking on an ice cube or swishing saltwater inside the mouth may end up doing more harm than good.
How To Cure Itchy Gums?
The treatment for itchy gums will depend on the cause of the problem. For instance, if your gums are itchy due to poor oral hygiene, your dentist might recommend scaling and root planing.
Antihistamines are prescribed for allergic reactions. For a dry mouth, the treatment will depend on the problem, again. It could be a medication, nasal decongestants, or the use of artificial saliva substitutes.
If you have a habit of grinding your teeth, your dentist may recommend that you wear a night guard for protection.
Healing wounds and hormonal changes usually resolve the issue of itchy gums without any additional intervention but it’s always a good idea to ask your dentist/doctor.
How To Prevent Itchy Gums?
While it’s not always preventable, there are some things that you can do to prevent itchy gums.
- Brush and floss: It’s important to brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes. Moreover, you need to floss to get the areas between your teeth. This will help ensure that your gum tissue stays healthy.
- Use a mouthwash: According to the NHS, fluoride mouthwash can help prevent tooth decay, so you should include it in your oral hygiene routine. Just don’t use it right after you brush your teeth.
- Get regular check-ups: If you visit your dentist once every 6 months, it will also help in the early diagnosis of a problem related to your gums.
Taking these steps can help you avoid having itchy gums.
Itchy gums can cause much discomfort and inconvenience. While this problem is rather common, there are many different reasons why it can occur.
Some of these reasons are more serious than others, which is why if your gums feel itchy, you need to get in touch with your dentist.
There are some things that you can do at home to relieve the itchiness, but those measures are only temporary and not always recommended.
In any case, take good care of your oral hygiene as it’s the best way to avoid a host of oral health problems.
Reviewed and approved by Dr Izbel Aksit