It’s easy to understand that braces can cause a patient’s teeth to change—that’s often the entire point of the treatment! What isn’t talked about as often is how orthodontic care affects the gums. Swollen gums are fairly common for people with braces. This can be temporary, or it can sometimes be permanent. After their braces come off, many patients choose to have their gums treated to put the finishing touch on their new smile. What causes the gums to swell with braces, and more importantly, how can they be treated?
What Causes Swollen Gums with Braces?
Right after braces have been put on or tightened, it’s normal for the gums to become slightly irritated and sore, which can cause them to swell. This is a natural response to something changing in the mouth, and typically, these symptoms go away after a few days.
However, in many cases, swollen gums can persist past this initial adjustment period and become chronic. While this can have many causes, the most common ones are:
- The gums are irritated due to inadequate oral hygiene,
- A patient has developed early-stage gum disease (gingivitis).
- An underlying health condition (such as diabetes) makes inflamed gums much more likely.
- Plaque buildup and irritation have caused a condition known as gingival hyperplasia, which results in an overgrowth of gum tissue around the teeth.
It’s also possible that a patient naturally has excess gum tissue that looks disproportional related to their teeth. This can stem from genetic factors or be influenced by how the teeth erupted.
How Can Swollen Gums Be Treated?
Other than just giving the gums a few days to “relax” and adapt to braces, the primary way most patients can calm their irritated gums is by practicing better oral hygiene. This may consist of brushing and flossing more often and/or adjusting their technique so they can more effectively clean around their braces. Many patients start using special flossers and mouthwash because these can effectively remove plaque and food particles from the tiny spaces between the brackets and wires.
In the case of gingival hyperplasia, the overgrowth of tissue usually subsides a few weeks after braces have been taken off. However, if the extra tissue doesn’t go away (or if a patient has too much gum tissue naturally), then it may need to be removed.
Thankfully, this can be done quickly and painlessly using a diode laser. This allows a dentist to contour the gum line with extreme precision to create a perfectly balanced smile. Laser treatment is extremely comfortable, causing little to no sensation during the procedure, and the recovery is quick and easy as well.
What You Can Do at Home About Swollen Gums
Beyond practicing better oral hygiene, if a braces patient wants to do something about their swollen gums at home, they can rinse with warm salt water a few times a day to eliminate any bacteria that might be causing irritation. During the first few days after braces have been placed or adjusted, taking an anti-inflammatory medication is OK as well.
This issue can be discussed during a patient’s routine progress checks, and their orthodontist can offer advice on how to mitigate the condition or go over possible treatment options if necessary.
In the end, swollen gums with braces may be a bit annoying, but there are plenty of easy solutions available, and they all result in the same thing: a beautiful smile that is eager to be shown off!
About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Shirck is an award-winning orthodontist and proud graduate of The Ohio State University. Dr. Shirck has dedicated himself to completing advanced training every year in order to improve his care, and he and his team strive to provide fully personalized treatments for every patient. If you or your child are dealing with swollen gums due to braces, he would be more than happy to answer your questions and discuss treatment if necessary. To learn more and schedule a consultation, click here.