Gumboils, also called gingival abscesses, are similar to pimples, except they occur on the gums inside the mouth instead of on the face or neck. They also usually indicate an infection deep in the roots of a tooth, whereas pimples tend to merely indicate a blocked pore or hair follicle. These boils can occur at any time and are usually caused by gum disease or a tooth that has died or that has severely infected roots. Infection from the root of the tooth pushes outward to the gum, creating a pus-filled pocket that can feel very painful.
Occasionally, the boil will appear, shrink, and emerge again. Some people may have scarring that looks like — but doesn’t feel like — a boil. Small hard bumps on the inside of the cheeks could be the result of repeated biting of the cheek, or hardening from wearing braces from several years. There are other things that may be confused with this condition.
A gumboil can also look like a canker sore, especially since these also tend to burst. A person can usually tell the difference because the canker sore may react more readily to irritation with acids, and they resolve within a few days without treatment. Canker sores can also occur on the tongue, the insides of the mouth, the roof of the mouth, and on the lips.
Dentists recommend that people who develop an abscess make an appointment to see a dentist, since they almost always indicates a problem and infection with an underlying tooth. The boils can get very large, and they can pop and drain pus, which tastes very bitter. This doesn’t usually resolve the infection, however, because the gumboil could be called an outward expression of a deeply hidden infection.
When a dentist sees the patient, he or she will typically use X-rays to look for any underlying tooth infection and may drain the boil to offer some relief. Antibiotics are very often prescribed, since infection at the root of the tooth must be addressed before a person can undergo a root canal or tooth extraction, if necessary. When gum disease is the cause, occasionally planing the roots, making them smooth, and scaling the teeth can help resolve the condition.
Sometimes, gumboils occur if a person has a piece of food imbedded in the root of a tooth. These may resolve when the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and the irritant removed. Dentists do say that the abscess should be taken seriously, since they can very often mean a tooth is endangered without treatment. There is also the real possibility that the infection could spread to the blood.
Some people, including those with autoimmune conditions and diabetes, are especially prone to gumboils. Regular teeth cleaning and dental care can help stave off infections in most people, but not always. It can also help to use a softer bristle brush, since sometimes abscesses can result from cuts and repeated abuse of the gums from harder bristled toothbrushes.