Blister on Gums & Gum Boils: Causes & Treatment

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Table of Contents

  1. Common Causes
  2. Caring for Gum Blisters
  3. Less Common Causes
  4. What are Gum Boils?
  5. Gum Boil Causes
  6. Gum Boil Risks
  7. Gum Boil Treatment
  8. Gum Blister or Boil Popping
  9. References

Feeling a blister or boil on your gums can be alarming, especially when you look and see a bump that wasn’t there before. You may be wondering what’s caused it and what you can do to get rid of it.

Before you panic  or try to pop the blister on your own, it’s important to understand that there are many causes of gum blisters and boils. Different types of blisters will require different types of care. 

Gum blisters are small lesions that appear in the soft tissue in the mouth and are often annoying but harmless. But they are sometimes caused by an underlying issue, can be contagious, or may be a sign of a more serious medical condition.

What are common causes of blisters on the gums?

There are a few common causes of gum blisters or mouth sores.

Canker sores are among the most common types of gum sores and can be experienced at any age.

  • Appearance: Canker sores may appear on the gums as round, oval blisters with a white or yellow center and red border. They may also appear on the inner cheeks or lips, tongue, or soft palate.

  • Types: Minor canker sores are most common and smaller in size. Less common are major canker sores, which are larger and more painful, and herpetiform canker sores, which are tiny (like pinpoints) and often occur in clusters of 10 to 100 sores that form into one large ulcer with irregular edges.

  • Symptoms: A tingling or burning feeling may occur in the location of the sores a day or two before they appear. Minor canker sores can be mildly uncomfortable or noticeable while eating or talking. Major or herpetiform canker sores can be very painful and affect eating.

  • Treatment: Most canker sores are mild. They will usually heal on their own in one to two weeks and will not leave any scars. Herpetiform canker sores will also usually heal without scarring in one to two weeks. Major canker sores, however, can take up to six weeks to heal and can leave serious scarring.

  • When to see a doctor: While most canker sores are mild and heal on their own, large or recurring canker sores are an issue that should be addressed with your doctor. You should also seem medical attention if your canker sores are accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

    • High fever

    • Significant difficulty eating or speaking

    • Sores that are spreading to the lips

    • Serious pain

Gum blisters can be caused by irritation or trauma to the mouth from minor accidents, such as cutting into the gums with food while eating. Braces or dentures that don’t fit correctly can also cause lesions, as can the ongoing irritation from a broken filling or sharp, chipped tooth. 

Minor burns can cause gum blisters. Burn-related blisters are especially common in children and young people.

  • Appearance: Gum blisters caused by irritation or trauma may vary in size and appearance but will occur as bumps (usually small and round) around the location that the accident or irritation has occurred.

  • Symptoms: In cases of minor trauma or irritation, gum blisters may be mildly painful and/or irritating. If they were caused by an accident, they will appear immediately or shortly after the accident. If they are caused by irritation, they may get worse over time if the cause of the irritation is not addressed and corrected.

  • Treatment: Gum blisters caused by a minor accident will likely heal on their own within one to two weeks. If the blisters are being caused by an ongoing irritation, like poorly fitting braces, the root cause of the irritation will need to be fixed to allow the sores to heal and also to prevent more sores.

  • When to see a doctor: You should seek medical attention if your mouth has experienced severe trauma, such as a serious accident. Ongoing irritation problems, like dentures or dental devices that don’t fit properly, will also need to be addressed by a dentist in order to resolve the blisters and avoid future problems.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, and they are very common. It’s estimated that 50 to 80 percent of adults in the U.S. have oral herpes, even if the virus doesn’t present itself in all cases as oral sores.

Cold sores typically appear around the mouth, tongue, lips, and roof of mouth as well as on the gums.

  • Appearance: Cold sores first appear as painful, fluid-filled blisters. These blisters and the fluid they contain are very contagious. The blisters usually “pop” within two to three days and become sores that will crust over and heal within a week.

  • Symptoms: The first outbreak of oral herpes is usually the most severe, with the most blisters and the highest level of pain and irritation. You may experience tingling, itching, or burning sensations in the locations of the blisters before they appear. As they are caused by a virus, cold sores may occur with a number of symptoms, including these:

  • Treatment: There is no cure for oral herpes or cold sores. The virus lives inside of you forever. However, antiviral pills can help outbreaks to occur less often.Certain creams can also help the sores to heal. Reducing stress, avoiding certain “trigger” foods, and including certain nutrients in your diet, like Lysine, may also help. 

  • When to see a doctor: As soon as you suspect you have oral herpes, you should speak to your doctor about treatment options to prevent future outbreaks.

Caring for common gum blisters

While the treatment for common gum blisters may vary depending on the cause, general care for gum blisters should include the following:

  • Avoiding hot and spicy foods

  • Avoiding foods containing citrus

  • Applying ice to sores (for sores caused by trauma)

  • Keeping the area around the sore clean

  • Rinsing the mouth with warm saltwater

  • Avoiding alcohol-based mouthwashes 

  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers to help with discomfort

  • Practicing good oral hygiene to prevent bacteria buildup

What are less common causes of blisters on the gums?

Gum blisters can also be caused by more serious underlying issues, including these:

  • Gingivostomatitis: An infection of the mouth and gums that is most often found in children and in adults with poor oral hygiene. Small ulcers in the mouth may be accompanied by fever, cough, and aches.

  • Thrush: This is a yeast infection inside the mouth that causes white lesions. This is most common among immunocompromised people and people who wear dentures. The condition is also known as denture stomatitis.

  • Oral lichen planus: This is a chronic disorder in which inflammation causes raised patches of tissue and/or swollen sores in the mouth.

  • Leukoplakia: Most often found in the mouths of smokers, leukoplakia causes thick white patches in the mouth.

  • Oral cancer: Oral cancer may cause ulcers, or sores that are red and white that don’t heal.

What are gum boils?

Gum boils are different from gum blisters, as they are actually abscesses filled with fluid or pus. There are three types of gum boils:

  1. Gingival gum boils:  Although less common, these types of abscesses form on the gums near teeth and can be very painful. 

  2. Pericoronal gum boils: Pericoronal abscesses usually form near the crowns of teeth that are waiting to erupt (like impacted wisdom teeth).

  3. Periodontal gum boils: These abscesses are the most common. They are one of the most common dental emergencies of any type.1

What causes gum boils?

Gum boils are caused by bacterial infections and may be the result of these conditions:

  • Poor overall oral health or poor oral hygiene

  • Mouth trauma or surgery

  • A compromised immune system

  • An imbalanced diet 

  • Inflammation

What are the risks associated with gum boils?

Because a gum boil is the result of a bacterial infection, it’s important that it’s treated quickly in order to ensure the infection doesn’t spread in the mouth or to other parts of your body’s system through the bloodstream.Any untreated dental abscess could lead to serious complications, including shock, brain abscesses, and even death.2

How are gum boils treated?

How your gum boil is treated will depend on how severe it is and where it is in the mouth. Treatment may include the following:

  • An antibiotic prescription to fight off the bacterial infection

  • Draining of the fluid inside the boil to reduce discomfort

  • Teeth and gum cleaning (if decay or bacteria buildup is the cause of the abscess)

  • Tooth extraction or surgery (in severe cases)

Can You Pop a Gum Blister or Boil?

You should never manually pop a gum blister or boil. Doing so may cause more trauma to the mouth and affected area, resulting in further irritation and inflammation.

Mild blisters or boils may erupt on their own or with a warm saltwater rinse, but they should not be squeezed or agitated. If you have a blister or boil that persists, see your dentist for an assessment.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.