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Drinking water after eating certain foods helps clean your gums. Drinking water after eating certain foods helps clean your gums. Drinking water after eating certain foods helps clean your gums.

The Surprising Causes of Sensitive Gums

Maintaining healthy gums is an important part of overall oral health.

Sometimes people are thinking so hard about how to protect their teeth that they forget to take care of their gums. The truth is, sensitive gums can make life really uncomfortable. They often look red and puffy and bleed easily when you brush or floss. You might even notice that the gumline is pulling away from the base of your teeth. Gum tissue helps to protect the roots and hold your teeth into place so caring for your gums should be a top priority in your dental hygiene routine.

While sensitive gums might be a symptom of gingivitis, which is the initial stage of gum disease, and heredity can also have a lot to do with the state of your gums, here are a few other surprising causes of gum sensitivity:

Aggressive Brushing

Brushing too hard can damage your gums and actually push them away from the base of your teeth. When cleaning your gums, the proper technique is a lot more efficient than hard brushing. Massage your gums in back and forth motions to remove bacteria. Consider a soft-bristled toothbrush such as Colgate® 360°® Enamel Health™ Sensitive Toothbrush, which includes polishing cups that allow you to focus on brushing more gently. While you're at it, switch your toothpaste to one formulated for sensitive mouths if you think the one you're using is causing irritation.


Hormonal fluctuations, like the kind that are caused by certain birth control pills or pregnancy, can cause some sensitivity in the gums. Hormones change the way your body interacts with bacteria that enters your mouth. The New York Times health blog says that gingivitis commonly develops during puberty and comes and goes over one's lifetime. During times of inflammation, be especially careful when brushing your teeth so as not to further aggravate your gums.

Acidic Foods

If you eat too many salt and vinegar potato chips or drink too much orange juice, you might feel a canker sore the next day. Prolonged exposure to acidic foods can irritate your gums and lead to gum recession. Choose snacks that are less acidic and salty. If you can't resist some of these treats, swish some water afterward to clear the debris out of your mouth.

Your gums are critical to the state of your overall oral health, so take care of them. Make sure to clean them well when brushing your teeth to remove harmful bacteria and minimize exposure to things that will cause them further irritation.