Lumps on the gum tissue can be a sign of a gum boil or abscess. When bacteria accumulate under the skin on the gums, it can result in a type of gum infection. There are a variety of causes for oral abscesses on the gum tissue, but most require medical gum boil treatment by a dentist. Here is what you need to know.
What Causes a Gum Boil?
A boil on the gums is a bacterial infection that can be caused by a few different conditions. Like most infections, hygiene can play a role. Removing bacteria, plaque and tartar with brushing and flossing can help prevent boils, but not all are caused by poor oral hygiene. A gum abscess can be caused by:
- Periodontal disease
- Tooth decay
- Infection after oral surgery
- Tooth infections
- Poorly fitting dentures
A gum abscess can be caused by a diseased tooth, or the infection can spread to the tooth or other areas of the body. There are different types of gum boils, some connected to a tooth root, while others are only in the gum tissue. All oral abscesses should be evaluated and treated immediately by a dentist.
Symptoms of a Gum Abscess
A gum abscess or boil can appear suddenly and cause various symptoms. The most obvious symptom of a boil on the gums is a lump or bump. The infection causes inflammation and pus to form, which results in the protruding bump on the gums. Some of the other symptoms of a gum boil include:
- Tenderness or gum pain
- Toothache in the neighboring tooth or teeth
- Nausea (abscesses can drain into the stomach)
- Bad breath
Gum boils can either periodontal abscesses or periapical abscesses. Periodontal abscesses are bacteria infections in the gum tissue, while periapical abscesses are caused by infection in a tooth root that spread to the surrounding gum tissue. Both require dental treatment to stop the spread of the infection.
Gum Boil Treatment
The treatment for gum abscesses or boils depends on the cause and type of infection. Some gum boil treatment may only require antibiotics or medication to stop the infection, but other more severe abscesses may require endodontic treatment or root canal therapy.
Periodontal Abscess Treatment
For gum boils unrelated to teeth problems, the gum infection can be treated with medication and possible dental procedures. This is similar to a boil found anywhere on the skin or any skin infection. For a periodontal abscess, treatment may include:
- Antibiotics or medication to stop infection
- Teeth cleaning to remove bacteria, plaque and tartar
- Draining the boil
- Deep root scaling and planing for severe gum infections
- Denture adjustment
- Salt water rinses for home care
Periodontal abscesses are less severe infections and generally can be treated without oral surgery. While milder than periapical abscesses, it is still important to stop the infection to avoid it spreading to teeth or the bloodstream.
Periapical Abscess Treatment
For a gum boil that is caused by a diseased or infected tooth, dental treatments are usually required. The infection needs to be treated, but the tooth causing the boil must also receive treatment. Gum boil treatment may involve the following dental procedures:
- Root canal therapy to remove infection from inside the tooth roots
- Removal of decay and repair tooth
- Dental crown after root canal
- Repair to tooth root or jaw bone
- Tooth extraction (in rare circumstances)
Removing the source of infection is vital for gum boil treatment. When the boil is caused by a diseased tooth, the tooth requires treatment to prevent further infections or other oral health problems. Each oral abscess scenario is different and may require various treatment plans to resolve the infection.
Are Gum Boils Related to Oral Cancer?
Most gum abscesses or boils are caused by bacteria infection from a dental or oral health condition. However, any lump or sore in the mouth that does not heal quickly on its own should be examined. Oral cancer can have similar symptoms to a boil on the gum tissue.
Gum boils are rarely linked to oral cancer, but it is possible a lump that looks like an abscess is an oral tumor. This is another reason that all bumps or lumps that persist on the gums or anywhere in the mouth should be examined and diagnosed by a dentist.
Good oral hygiene and routine dental visits are the best way to prevent periodontal abscesses and tooth decay or infection. You should brush twice a day, floss daily and see your dental team at least twice a year for checkups/cleanings to help prevent gum boils and other dental issues. If you suspect you have an oral abscess or infection, do not delay. Call your dentist to schedule an exam to see if you need gum boil treatment to prevent the spread of infection.