Gum Injury: Is It an Emergency or Should I Seek a Dentist?

Gum injuries can be pretty distressing. They can cause significant pain, bleeding, and discomfort. Knowing how to handle a gum injury is essential for your oral health.

Learn about the different types of gum injuries, when to consider them an emergency, and when to seek professional dental care.

Types of Gum Injuries

Gum injuries can occur in various ways, and you need to understand the different types to determine the severity and the right action to take.

Here are some common types of gum injuries.

Cuts and Lacerations

Accidental cuts or lacerations to the gums can happen from sharp objects, dental instruments, or trauma. These injuries may result in bleeding and discomfort.

Gum Abrasions

Abrasions occur when the gums scrape or rub against a rough surface. This is usually a result of a hard-bristled toothbrush or abrasive dental floss. This can cause irritation and redness, and there are also chances of minor bleeding.

Gum Contusions

Contusions, or bruises, can happen due to a direct blow or impact to the gums. They may result in localized pain, swelling, and discoloration.

Gum Punctures

Punctures occur when a sharp object penetrates the gum tissue. One typical example is accidentally biting down on a fork or toothpick. 

These injuries can cause pain and bleeding. It can also lead to infection if not properly treated.

Gum Fractures

Fractures of the gum tissue can occur from severe trauma or accidents. This type of injury may involve a break in the gum tissue. It comes with other symptoms like bleeding, swelling, and significant pain.

What Can Cause Gum Injury?

Gum injuries can occur for various reasons and range from mild to severe. Some common causes of gum injuries include:

Gum Injury After Brushing

You may notice your gums bleeding after brushing your teeth. This may happen when you have poor oral hygiene or haven’t brushed in a while. Overly aggressive brushing can also cause the gums to become irritated, leading to injury or bleeding.

Trauma or Injury

Accidental falls, sports-related incidents, or any direct impact to the mouth can result in gum injuries. This can include cuts, lacerations, or even gum tissue detachment.

Dental Procedures

Certain dental procedures, such as tooth extractions, dental implants, or orthodontic treatments, may cause gum injuries or sensitivity.

Ill-fitting Dentures or Dental Appliances

Poorly fitted dentures or dental appliances that rub against the gums can lead to irritation and injury over time.

Gum Disease

Advanced gum disease, such as periodontitis, can cause gum tissue to become weak and prone to injury. Inflamed and infected gums are more susceptible to injuries and may bleed easily.

Chewing on Hard Objects

Most people know that biting on hard objects like ice, pens, or fingernails can cause trauma to your teeth, but they may also injure your gums. 

Is Gum Injury an Emergency?

While your dentist would not classify all gum injuries as emergencies, certain situations may require immediate attention. This is why you need to be able to assess the severity of the injury and seek appropriate dental care accordingly.

Here are some guidelines to determine if a gum injury may require urgent attention.

Excessive Bleeding

Suppose the gum injury is causing significant bleeding that doesn't stop after applying gentle pressure with clean gauze or a damp cloth for 10-15 minutes. In that case, seeking immediate dental care or visiting an emergency room may be necessary.

Severe Pain

If the gum injury comes with severe pain that is difficult to manage with over-the-counter pain relievers, contact your dentist or seek emergency dental care.

Loose or Knocked-out Tooth

If the gum injury has resulted in a loose tooth or a tooth has been completely knocked out, you'll need immediate dental attention. Try to preserve the tooth in a container of milk or saliva and seek dental care as soon as possible.

Signs of Infection

If the gum injury shows signs of infection, such as increasing redness, swelling, warmth, or pus formation, it's important to contact your dentist promptly or visit an emergency dental clinic.

Difficulty Eating or Speaking

If the gum injury significantly affects your ability to eat, drink, or speak properly, seeking immediate dental care for evaluation and treatment may be necessary.

How to Prevent Gum Infections

Preventing gum injuries is essential for maintaining oral health and avoiding unnecessary discomfort. Here are some tips to help you prevent gum injuries.

Practice Proper Oral Hygiene

Brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss daily to keep your gums healthy and free from infection. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle, circular motions to avoid causing irritation or injury to the gums.

Choose the Right Oral Care Tools

Opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush at all times. Use dental floss or interdental cleaners that are gentle on your gums. Avoid using toothpicks or sharp objects that can puncture or injure the gum tissue.

Wear a Mouthguard During Sports Activities

If you engage in sports or activities that pose a risk of impact or trauma to the mouth, wearing a mouthguard can help protect your gums and teeth from injuries.

Avoid Chewing on Hard Objects

Refrain from chewing on hard objects like:

  • Ice

  • Pen

  • Fingernails

This can lead to gum injuries or fractures.

Regular Dental Check-ups

Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. A professional dental exam can help identify gum issues early on and prevent potential injuries.

Address Dental Problems Promptly

If you have dental issues like misaligned teeth, sharp edges, or broken dental restorations, seek dental treatment promptly to prevent gum injuries.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Adopting a balanced diet and avoiding tobacco products can contribute to overall gum health and reduce the risk of gum injuries.

Essential Steps for Prompt Care and Relief

If you injure your gums, follow these steps for proper care and management.

Use a Salt Rinse

Use warm salt water to rinse your mouth gently. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and swish it around for about 30 seconds. This helps cleanse the area and reduces the risk of infection.

Apply Gentle Pressure

If bleeding, use a clean piece of gauze or a dampened tea bag and apply gentle pressure to the affected area. This helps control bleeding and encourages clot formation.

Use a Cold Compress

Apply a cold compress or an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the outside of your mouth near the injured gum area to reduce swelling and alleviate pain.

Avoid Irritants

Avoid consuming hot, spicy, or acidic foods. Also, avoid beverages that would irritate the injury. Don't smoke or use tobacco products too. These products can hinder the healing process.

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene

Continue brushing your teeth gently using a soft-bristled toothbrush, avoiding the injured gum area. Rinse with an antimicrobial mouthwash to keep the site clean.

Monitor the Injury

Keep an eye on the injury and observe if it shows signs of improvement or any worsening symptoms.

If the gum injury persists, a dentist appointment is necessary. This is also the case if the gum becomes painful or infected.

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**As of April 2020

The Carefree Dental blog is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The text and pictures within the content are intended for information purposes only. Readers should consult with a licensed dentist or healthcare professional before seeking treatment.

The Carefree Dental Card is not insurance, and Carefree Dental is not an insurance provider.

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