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What Causes Gum Sensitivity and How to Get Rid of It

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Flossing and brushing are routine daily tasks, but sensitive or sore gums can make them painful. Some people can dismiss mild sensitivity as a minor inconvenience. While gum soreness or sensitivity can either be mild or severe, it’s important to understand why it happens, regardless of whether they affect your day-to-day life or not. It’s because sore gums could indicate a more serious condition that needs treatment stat.

Gum Sensitivity: What is It?

You may feel soreness when you floss or brush your teeth when you have sensitive gums. The pain and sensitivity you feel may gradually subside or linger, and sometimes, it’s accompanied by other sore gums symptoms like swelling, redness, bleeding, and bad breath.

Sensitive gums and teeth are different, but you may experience difficulties distinguishing one from the other depending on the location of the pain.

You have sensitive teeth if you experience pain when consuming hot or cold food or beverage. Tooth sensitivity is often caused by cavities, lost fillings, and worn-down dental enamel.

Gum Sensitivity: Causes

Various things and conditions can make your gums sensitive. Some of these include:

Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy)

Scurvy refers to a severe vitamin-C deficiency, which happens when your body can’t absorb vitamin C or doesn’t get enough vitamin C from your diet.

Some symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include bleeding, swelling, and sore gums. Other symptoms include irritability, fatigue, joint pain, and bruises on the skin.


Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” increases with stress. Prolonged high cortisol levels can cause inflammation in various parts of your body, including your gums.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is when the gums holding teeth in place are inflamed. The most common cause of sore gums is poor dental hygiene. Not brushing or flossing can lead to plaque and food particle accumulation on teeth, the spaces between them, and the gum line. These are ideal conditions for bacteria to thrive and irritate your gums.

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, which includes symptoms like swollen and painful gums that bleed easily. Not treating this condition can lead to periodontitis, a more severe stage that causes a strong inflammatory response in the gums, eventually leading to tooth loss.


Uncontrolled diabetes can also impact oral health. Too much sugar in the saliva can lead to plaque and bacteria growth. It can also cause gum disease if plaque isn’t cleared away.


Aside from increasing your risk for stroke and lung cancer, smoking can also damage your gums and cause gum disease. This, in turn, leads to gum sensitivity.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes during pregnancy, puberty, menstruation, or menopause can also make gums sensitive. Hormone level changes increase blood flow to the gums, making them more tender and sensitive.

Oral Infections

Canker sores and mouth ulcers can also cause gum soreness. These may occur due to vitamin deficiencies, stress, autoimmune diseases, and acidic foods.

Oral infections could include oral herpes or thrush, which has symptoms that include sore or white lesions and painful gums.

Food or Appliance Irritation

Your gums can feel sensitive or sore from acidic foods and new dental appliances. Acidic foods can irritate your gums or cause visible sores on the tender tissues of the gum line. Too much yogurt, soda, and citrus fruits can also cause canker sores or receding gums.

Ill-fitting oral appliances like retainers, dentures, and braces can tug at your gum line. It can make your gums more tender by temporarily exposing more sensitive tissues. Sometimes, the sensitivity will disappear as your mouth adjusts to the appliance.

Consult your dentist if the sensitivity of your gums persists to help you get a better-fitting oral appliance.

Treatment for Sensitive Gums

How to get rid of sore gums? The root cause of gum soreness and sensitivity will determine the treatment. There are cases where you can treat sensitive gums at home, while some cases require a dental visit.

At Home

  • Maintain good dental hygiene. Brush your mouth at least twice daily and floss once per day. Be gentle, and use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid irritating your gums. Ask your dentist for proper cleaning methods if necessary.
  • Use antiseptic toothpaste. An antiseptic toothpaste will kill bacteria in your mouth and soothe your sore gums.
  • Make sure you get enough vitamin C. Increasing your vegetable and fruit intake or taking a multivitamin to increase your vitamin C is another excellent sensitive gum remedy. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults should consume between 65 and 90 mg of vitamin C daily, with a maximum daily intake of 2,000 mg.
  • Drink more water. Water can help remove bacteria and food particles from your mouth and teeth.
  • Stop smoking. Quitting cigarettes and other tobacco products will help heal your gums and prevent sensitive gums. Consider temporary nicotine replacement therapy or apps to help you quit.
  • Learn and practice stress management skills. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, learn to say no, and try not to overcommit yourself.
  • Use over-the-counter medication. Some mouth sores will heal on their own. You can also use over-the-counter creams that reduce sensitivity and hasten healing. However, don’t use creams and other similar products on infants. You may also use over-the-counter pain relief medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Follow the instructions on the packaging.


Consult a dentist if your sensitivity or soreness doesn’t get better or worsens despite changing your lifestyle. This could indicate an infection or gum disease, which is only treated with deep-cleaning dental procedures that remove tartar and plaque and reverse gum sensitivity.

Sometimes, sensitivity and bleeding are signs of an autoimmune disease, leukemia, or other blood disorder.

Your doctor may require additional testing procedures if they suspect an underlying medical condition. You may need blood and imaging tests to determine the presence of inflammation or cancerous cells. Until then, your dentist may prescribe triamcinolone (Kenalog), an oral anti-inflammatory prescription-strength medication.

Your dentist might recommend over-the-counter pain relievers with topical benzocaine if braces or dentures are the cause of your gum discomfort. However, you should not give benzocaine-containing medications to infants.

If you have thrush or an infection of the gums, your dentist may prescribe an oral antifungal medication.

Key Takeaway

Sensitive gums are a common condition characterized by gum pain that lingers or subsides, often accompanied by symptoms like swelling and bleeding. Sensitive gums and teeth are different from each other, difficult to tell apart, and may have different underlying issues.

Sensitive gums are caused by different factors, like stress, gum disease, and vitamin C deficiency. It may also be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Gum soreness or sensitivity may resolve on its own or need treatments. You can try at-home treatments like improving oral hygiene and increasing vitamin C intake or visit your dentist for prescription treatments.

Experience healthier gums with Century Dental.

Our dentist near Treasure Island, FL, provides excellent preventive dental procedures that help keep gums and teeth healthy and strong. They also provide top-notch restoration services to help regain your teeth’s functionality and a fuller smile. Call us today for any inquiries or concerns. We’ll be there for you.

Picture of Dr. Abdullah M. Allawnha

Dr. Abdullah M. Allawnha

Dr. Allawnha, born in New Orleans and raised in Windsor, Canada, earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Windsor. He worked as an ER nurse in Detroit, Michigan, before moving to Morgantown, West Virginia, to become a dentist. He completed his Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from West Virginia University School of Dentistry while still working as a nurse until he graduated.

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