Pain or Swelling in the Mouth

Be it tooth sensitivity, a burning sensation, or bleeding gums, most people experience pain in their mouth at some point in life. Swelling and pain can occur throughout the mouth including the gums, inside of cheeks, roof of the mouth (palate), and tongue. While it is always advisable to seek treatment should mouth pain or swelling occur, understanding the underlying cause of the issue can help patients ensure they seek appropriate dental care and treatment.

Common Causes of Mouth Pain or Swelling

  • Mouth Sores: There are numerous reasons that mouth sores can develop. Sores, such as canker sores, can develop inside the mouth on the tongue, roof of the mouth, and inside of the cheeks. The small ulcers can be identified by white lesions with red borders and even before they are visible, canker sores can lead to burning and tingling sensations. Canker sores generally clear up on their own without treatment but if pain is severe or persistent, a dentist may prescribe antibiotics, antimicrobial mouth rinse, or corticosteroids to aid in the healing process. A dentist will also be able to determine if the sores are symptomatic of a greater issue such as oral cancer.
  • Injury to Mouth or Teeth: Trauma or injuries to the mouth are all too common and can lead to pain and swelling. Trauma can range from mild, such as burning your tongue on hot food, to severe, such as a sports injury that results in cracked or lost teeth. The extent of the injury and severity of damage done will ultimately impact treatment options available. For example, a cracked tooth may require dental bonding to correct the damage, prevent sensitivity issues, and restore cosmetic appearance.
  • Tooth Decay: It is often a sign of tooth decay when a patient experiences occasional sharp pain or throbbing with no apparent cause. Sensitivity to hot and cold and/or tenderness when chewing, can indicate the presence of a cavity that will need professional treatment. Prompt treatment of a cavity offers the dentist the best chance of saving the affected tooth. A mild cavity treated early can often be managed with a filling but should decay be advanced, a root canal may be needed to remove the infected tooth pulp.
  • Gum Disease: Amongst American adults, gum disease is one of the more common oral health conditions. Gingivitis, the initial stage of gum disease, is caused when plaque builds up on the teeth and along the gumline. Plaque damages the otherwise healthy structures of the mouth leading to swelling, bleeding gums, and bad breath. Routine dental exams, along with proper flossing and brushing, can reverse gingivitis but if left untreated, gingivitis advances to periodontitis (advanced gum disease). Periodontitis often results in gum erosion, loose teeth, and bone loss.
  • Dry Mouth: Because saliva is essential to washing bacteria and debris off the teeth, patients that do not have adequate moisture in their mouth, often have pain or swelling. A chronic condition where the salivary glands do not provide adequate moisture inside the mouth, patients suffering from dry mouth often have rough tongues, cracked lips, develop mouth sores, bad breath, and cavities. Minor cases can be managed by drinking more water but severe cases of dry mouth often necessitate treatment from a dentist.

Trouble Eating and Chewing