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Why Do My Gums Hurt When Brushing Teeth?

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gums hurt when brushing teeth

You probably know that brushing your teeth twice a day is vital for good oral health. But if your gums hurt when brushing teeth, it can be difficult to stay motivated and brush your teeth regularly. Here’s what could be going on and what you should do if your gums hurt when brushing.

Why do gums hurt when brushing teeth?

There can be various reasons why your gums hurt when brushing teeth.  Here are the most common ones.

Wrong toothbrush or wrong brushing technique

This is a common reason that can make gums hurt when brushing teeth. If you brush too aggressively or use a hard-bristled toothbrush, it can irritate the gums and make them hurt. Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush using gentle circular motions rather than vigorously going back and forth. If you’re not sure about the correct brushing technique, ask your dentist or dental hygienist to show you.

Gum disease

Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontal disease (advanced gum disease) are common dental health conditions that can make your gums red, swollen, tender, and sensitive. If you have gum disease, it can make your gums hurt when brushing teeth. This condition can also make your gums bleed when you brush. It’s important to seek professional dental care if you suspect gum disease as it is linked not only to poor oral health but also poor general health.

Acidic foods and drinks

Eating and drinking acidic foods and beverages such as citrus fruits, pickles, coffee, and wine can cause irritation in the soft tissues of your mouth. In severe cases, it can lead to the formation of mouth sores, which can make your gums hurt when brushing teeth. Limit your intake of acidic foods and rinse your mouth with water after you eat or drink them. This may help to relieve symptoms.

Canker sores

Canker sores are shallow ulcers or lesions that develop in the soft tissues of the mouth including the gums. They’re not contagious (unlike cold sores). But canker sores can be very painful and tender to touch and they can make your gums hurt when brushing teeth by irritating the oral tissues. Canker sores generally heal on their own in 1-2 weeks, but you should see your dentist if the pain is intense enough that you are not able to brush your teeth.

Poorly fitting dentures or braces

If dental appliances such as braces, retainers, mouth guards, or dentures do not fit well they can irritate you gums. This can make your gums hurt when brushing teeth. Make sure your braces and dentures fit well and are not broken. Keep all your orthodontic appointments during braces treatment. Don’t delay seeking care for dentures or mouth guards that are causing any sort of irritation or symptoms.

Hormonal changes

Women experience changes in the gums due to hormonal changes associated with puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. For example, hormonal changes can lead to increased blood flow in the gums, making them more swollen and sensitive. This increased sensitivity can make the gums hurt when brushing teeth. Your healthcare provider can offer solutions for hormonal changes that may relieve gum pain by treating the underlying cause.


People undergoing cancer treatment with chemotherapy can develop pain, swelling, redness, and bleeding in the gums and mouth (this side effect is called stomatitis). Your doctors can give you treatments to soothe your gums if they are affected by chemotherapy.

How do I stop my gums from hurting when I brush?

If your gums hurt when brushing teeth, the treatment depends on the cause. Make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible so that they can identify the problem and treat it properly. In the meantime, here are some home remedies that may help:

  • Warm or cold compresses.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications.
  • Oral anesthetic gels.
  • Salt water rinses.

Can gingivitis go away?

As mentioned above, gingivitis or gum inflammation is the initial stage of gum disease. It can make your gums hurt when brushing teeth. Gingivitis will not go away on its own without treatment. However, your dentist can perform a thorough professional cleaning and you can follow it up with good oral hygiene at home along with regular dental checkups and periodic professional cleanings.

If you’re looking for a new dentist in your area, Express Dentist can help you find one. All calls to our hotline are completely free of cost and we don’t charge a commission for dental referrals. Call us today and get quick relief if your gums hurt when brushing teeth.

About the author

Dr Greg Grillo
Dr. Greg Grillo

Dr. Greg Grillo DDS studied at the University of Washington where he received a bachelors degree with Honors and later attended dental school on the same campus. Following school Dr. Greg served in the United States Navy as a dental officer. During this time he received advanced training in specialty areas of dentistry while also treating families of members of the military.

As well as sharing valuable information on dentistry and oral health, Dr. Greg remains a practicing dentist to this day. He works with families in the Okanogan Valley where he lives with his wife and three children.

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