What Does It Mean If Your Gums Hurt When Brushing Your Teeth?

March 8, 2022

As with any other part of your body, if your gums hurt, this indicates that something is wrong. There are plenty of situations why your gums might hurt. Maybe they hurt when brushing your teeth, when eating when flossing, or even all the time. There is some overlap among the reasons your gums may hurt in various situations. That being said, the following are all potential reasons for pain in your gums when you brush.

You Aren’t Brushing Correctly

If your teeth only hurt when you are brushing and not at any other time, start looking at how you brush your teeth. First, confirm that you use a toothbrush that has soft nylon bristles. Then look at your movement.

Ideally, you want to brush your teeth with gentle circular motions. Avoid just moving the toothbrush back and forth over your teeth. The word “gentle” is also key here. If you brush with too much force, you can accidentally damage your gums.

If you aren’t sure which toothbrush to use or if your technique is right, bring it up at your next dental cleaning. Dr. Sharma and his team will be happy to demonstrate the proper technique and offer toothbrush suggestions.

You Have Gum Disease

If you are brushing properly, then one of the most common explanations for your gums hurting when you brush is gum disease. You should also be on the lookout for swollen or red gums, as these are also signs of gum disease.

Gum disease happens when plaque builds up along your gum line and under it. The plaque can cause gum disease as well as tooth decay and infections. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease, and it can worsen into periodontitis, which is more advanced. Periodontitis not only affects the gums but the bones under your teeth as well.

Dr. Dhiraj Sharma will check for signs of gum disease at every single one of your dental cleanings. This helps ensure that if you do have gingivitis, you don’t give it a chance to progress. To make it easier to diagnose your gum disease, always be honest about whether you have pain while brushing (or flossing).

You Have an Abscessed Tooth

An abscess refers to the pus pocket that forms when the root of your tooth is infected. An abscess is not always painful, but it can be. Additionally, sometimes, your abscessed tooth will cause swollen gums. Any time your gums are swollen, brushing may hurt.

Your Oral Devices Caused Abrasions

Many people need to wear braces or use dentures, mouth guards, retainers, or other oral devices at some point in their life. While these help your overall oral health, they can irritate your gums if they don’t fit properly. Even if they do fit properly, there may be occasional irritation.

Specifically, these oral devices may rub or pull against your gum line. This can lead to small abrasions or cuts and general irritation. When your toothbrush touches these spots, it can cause a flare-up of pain.

You Use Tobacco

People who use tobacco, whether they smoke cigarettes or chew smokeless tobacco, can also experience pain while brushing. There are several ways that tobacco can cause pain when you brush.

Tobacco increases your risk of gum disease. As mentioned, gum disease can cause pain while brushing. Additionally, tobacco can cause your gums to recede, which will make brushing painful. It can also lead to sores on your gums and inside your mouth. That can also cause pain.

In addition to pain, while brushing and other issues mentioned, tobacco can cause oral cancer.

You Have Canker Sores

Sores from tobacco aren’t the only type of sores in your mouth that can lead to pain when brushing. Canker sores are also called aphthous ulcers. These are small lesions by the base of your gums or on your mouth’s other soft tissues. You can tell that they are canker sores because they have red edges and a white center.

Unfortunately, one side effect of canker sores is that your gums are tender and sore. Canker sores don’t require treatment, and they should go away within two weeks, possibly less.

Your Diet Caused Sores or Irritation

If you eat and drink a lot of acidic food and beverages, this can lead to irritation of the gums. In some cases, you may even develop sores. As mentioned, either sores or irritation can cause pain.

Either avoid acidic foods like wine, coffee, tomato products, pickles, cranberries, and citrus or rinse your mouth after you enjoy them.

You Are Experiencing Hormonal Changes

There are plenty of hormonal changes that may make your gums more sensitive when it comes time to brush. Women, in particular, may notice pain in their gums when their hormones change during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, or menstruation.

The problem with the hormones in these situations is that their fluctuations increase the blood flow to your gums. That can lead to increased sensitivity in addition to swelling and redness. The result is having pain when you brush.

You Are Stressed

Although it may come as a surprise, pain while brushing may be due to stress. That is because stress increases your cortisol levels. When your cortisol levels are high, every part of your body has a higher risk of inflammation, including the gums.

As mentioned earlier, brushing may be uncomfortable anytime you have inflamed gums.

You Are Undergoing Chemo

It is no secret that chemotherapy has a lot of potential side effects. One of those side effects is the potential for mouth sores and inflamed gums. This means that it is likely that brushing will be a bit uncomfortable while you are undergoing chemotherapy.

The Bottom Line

There are plenty of reasons that your gums might hurt when brushing. The important thing to know is that it indicates you need to change something. It may be as simple as swapping out your toothbrush or checking your brushing technique. But you may need to visit your dentist in Chicago to check for gum disease or other issues that can be causing the pain.


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