If your palms itch, you’re in need of a tip. If your fingers itch, you’re longing or impatient to do something. But what does it mean if your gums itch? Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that a good financial fortune is in your future. Much like an itch you can’t scratch, itchy gums can be irritating, and are caused by a variety of issues such as allergic reactions. Healthy gums are essential to protecting your teeth—the two go hand-in-hand in oral health. Itchy gums can be an important warning sign, an indicator that your gums are at risk of periodontal disease.
If Your Gums Itch…
The root cause of itchy gums is one in many, so identifying complementary symptoms can help determine the cause.
- Itching that also affects the roof of the mouth may be an allergy.
- Red, irritated, or inflamed gums could point to the first stages of gum disease.
- Pain, aching, or swelling could be the result of an injury or tooth abscess.
- Itchy and dry gums could be a sign of an autoimmune disorder, when your immune system mistakenly attacks your body.
Of course, you can’t really diagnose the actual cause of your itchy gums at home. If the condition persists or worsens, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a dentist.
The most common and most likely cause of itchy gums is plaque buildup. Twice-daily brushing and daily flossing can keep plaque from coating your teeth and gums, but too many free-passes will cause the plaque to harden into tartar. These deposits of petrified bacteria can only be removed by your dentist.
An allergic reaction like hay fever can cause an itchy mouth. Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) can also be the culprit, which causes itching or swelling of the mouth, face, tongue, or throat after eating raw fruit or vegetables.
A dry mouth is a common symptom that occurs alongside itchy gums. Your mouth produces enough saliva to keep the mouth moist, but certain medical conditions like Sjorgen’s Syndrome can stop this natural oral spring. This condition affects the mucous membranes of your eyes and mouth, which can result in lowered levels of tears and saliva, leading to dry mouth and gums. When your gums are dry, it can contribute to or exacerbate gum disease. Dry mouth is also a common side effect of medications.
Which brings us to the least common but most concerning potential cause of itchy gums: periodontal (gum) disease. Tartar below the gum line can cause irritation and inflammation—the first tell-tale sign that bad bacteria has taken over.
Itchy gums as a result of gum disease is usually preventable, and the first stage of gum disease can be controlled, treated and even reduced. The best way to prevent itchy gums is to keep teeth and gums clean and free of plaque. In addition to daily oral health care like brushing and flossing, be sure you schedule a professional cleaning with your dentist every six months. A mouth rinse can be beneficial for those that battle frequent gum sensitivity or soreness. Healthy lifestyle habits like a diet low in sugar is also important, while habits like smoking can exacerbate or accelerate conditions like gum disease.
If you experience itchy gums for an extended period of time, and it isn’t solved or mediated by good oral health or salt-water rinses, you should seek the professional opinion of your dentist.