Swollen Gums and Braces

Before you get your cool new braces put on (hopefully in my favorite color blue) it’s common to have questions about your gums. Maybe your friends have told you that your gums will hurt after you get braces. Swollen and sore gums are one of the most common byproducts of getting braces. Fully embracing your braces doesn’t have to be a cause for worry. In most cases when you make a few minor changes to your daily habits you can alleviate or sometimes eliminate the irritation.

What causes swollen gums?

The mild pressure braces apply to your teeth causes them to shift and your gums need to adjust to the new positioning. The jaw responds to the pressure of the braces by dissolving bone in the direction your teeth are headed and creating new bone in the path left behind. This repositioning of your teeth can cause pressure and tension.

Brushing your teeth can be challenging

Metal or ceramic brackets cemented to your teeth and threaded with wires will undoubtedly make brushing your teeth a bit more difficult than it used to be. Inflamed gums make teeth even more difficult to clean. Regardless, it’s still important to clean your teeth thoroughly to remove bacteria. If you don’t do a good job with brushing your teeth with braces then bacterial plaque can form and cause gum inflammation (gingivitis) and periodontal disease (gum disease). These can lead to bleeding, red and swollen gums.

Puberty hormones don’t help

Young orthodontic patients may experience puberty hormones which can also escalate gum swelling and gum disease. If left untreated this problem could eventually accelerate the detachment of the teen’s supporting teeth structures.

But it’s not just teenagers that have to watch out for these hormones. Pregnant women can also experience this hormone surge. These hormonal spikes in pregnant women can even lead to “pregnancy gingivitis.” This is one reason that typically braces aren’t put on women who are pregnant.

When Should You Be Worried About Swollen Gums?

It’s totally normal to experience short-term swelling during your first several weeks of braces as well as after you have your braces adjusted. The swelling might feel more pronounced than you expected and you might be wondering if it’s a sign of another issue.

Typically the swelling and irritation is just the normal reaction of getting braces or having adjustments done. But, swollen gums, especially after a long period without pain, could indeed be an indication of another problem. Here are some examples to look out for.

Gingival enlargement:

If you’re experiencing swelling that lasts longer than what your orthodontist described, it could be a sign of gingival enlargement also known as hyperplasia of gums or hypertrophy. Gingival enlargement is typically inherited or due to medication. However, braces can also trigger this gum overgrowth reaction.

Gingivitis from hidden plaque:

When plaque builds up on your teeth, it can result in gingivitis. Braces could make it harder to reach the debris with wiring and brackets in place. And, of course, when food becomes trapped in your gums, it could lead to buildup over time, resulting in gum inflammation.


Demineralization occurs when leftover food on teeth comes in contact with bacteria and creates acid. Then this acid robs the phosphate and calcium from your teeth leading to “white scars” or decalcification. These white scars look like little chalky white squares which outline the spot where your braces once were. They can also be sensitive.

You should note, braces themselves don’t lead to staining and anybody who doesn’t take proper care of their teeth could also have white scars. But, individuals with braces are more susceptible to decalcification since braces act like the perfect trap for food. Sadly, these demineralization stains are typically permanent, and they can lead to cavities. Brushing your teeth after each meal, cutting back on things like soda and sugar and flossing once a day can help you avoid demineralization.

Tips for Dealing With Swollen Gums From Braces

The best treatment for easing the discomfort and swelling begins with determining the cause, therefore you should speak with your orthodontist if your swelling lasts over a few days. However, there are some tips you can follow to help with swollen gums from braces such as:

Saltwater Rinses

Swish saltwater in your mouth and spit the water out into your sink (don’t swallow). The salt helps prevent bacteria growth in your mouth and helps reduce the bacteria on your gums that could be the cause of the swelling.

Sufficiently Brushing and Flossing

Brush and floss your teeth sufficiently, including:

  • Using an electric toothbrush that comes with a special orthodontic head and a timer telling you when you’ve brushed sufficiently (two minutes, twice a day or more if your gums are very swollen).
  • Using a floss threader and interproximal brush to clean around and under the wires.
  • Using a water flosser that washes out the food particles from your gums.

Following that up with a fluoride mouthwash, an antimicrobial mouthwash and optionally a saltwater rinse to help reduce inflammation.

Don’t Brush Aggressively

While brushing regularly is important for healthy gums and teeth, dental professionals warn about overdoing a good thing. Overbrushing (tooth abrasion) can cause receding gums and sensitive teeth.

Vigorously brushing your teeth can wear down your enamel and push back and damage your gums, which will expose the sensitive tooth area. Dental problems like cavities on the roots of your teeth and periodontal disease caused by receding gums could lead to the need for further treatments like tooth extraction, fillings and root canals.

Vigorously brushing isn’t necessary for removing plaque. Plaque is soft enough where you can remove it with a cloth if you are able to reach all the areas where it tends to hide. While you do need to be thorough to remove plaque, you don’t need to brush aggressively.

Consult with Laser Orthodontics to learn more about braces and swollen gums.

At Laster Orthodontics, we help families develop healthy, life-changing smiles using customized treatments, cutting-edge technologies, and caring relationships. Our individualized treatment plans help our patients achieve their perfect smile in the quickest, most painless way possible by utilizing a wide range of options from traditional braces to Propel accelerated treatment to Dr. Laster’s in-house aligner program, Laster Perfect Smile. With three locations throughout the Triangle Area, we create life-changing smiles every day.