Gum overgrowth, also known as gingival hyperplasia, can be a serious side effect of other conditions. Although at first it might not seem as bad to have your gums growing too much, it can actually be very dangerous to your teeth, as well as being unattractive and uncomfortable.
Causes of Gum Overgrowth
Gum overgrowth usually occurs when your gum tissues respond aggressively to irritants like plaque or tartar. Instead of leading to receding gums, gum disease can trigger excessive growth of gum tissue, although receding gums may often follow.
But what causes your gums to respond this way? For some people, the condition is genetic. When this is the case, there’s no identifiable cause that we can look to, and we just have to deal with the consequences. A rarer form of gingival overgrowth, called gingival fibromatosis, isn’t related to gum disease. Healthy, pink gum tissue grows excessively, completely covering teeth if it’s not removed.
Gum overgrowth is also a side effect of some medications. The medications most commonly linked with gum overgrowth are the anticonvulsant phenytoin, the immunosuppressant cyclosporin, and a number of calcium-channel blockers.
Gum overgrowth can also be the result of systemic changes in your health. Pregnancy is one of the most common, but other hormonal imbalances and leukemia have also been linked to gum overgrowth.
Effects of Gum Overgrowth
Gum overgrowth can look unattractive. With gingival fibromatosis, your teeth will virtually disappear. With other causes of gum overgrowth, you’re more likely to get localized red, swollen lesions that look unattractive. They can also be painful and are likely to bleed.
Because most gum overgrowth is inflammatory, they are dangerous to your teeth and bones, as your body’s own immune response can attack your tissues as well as invading bacteria.
In all cases, gum overgrowth can trap bacteria, tartar, and irritants under the gum line, leading to accelerated decay and more irritation and swelling.
Treating Gum Overgrowth
In cases where gum overgrowth is related to gum disease, fastidious oral hygiene can help control swelling. Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling. With some systemic conditions, treating them can help reduce or eliminate gum overgrowth. Others (like pregnancy) may pass.
We can also look at your medications and attempt to determine which medications might be contributing to your overgrowth. You should talk to your doctor about other options that may not have the same effects.
With gingival fibromatosis, the only option is to recontour your gums to ensure that you still show enough teeth to have an attractive smile. This may have to be done several times.