Irritated Bump On Your Gums? It Could Be A Cold Sore

If you have a persistent, painful bump on your gumline that won't go away, even with thorough tooth brushing and flossing habits, the cause might surprise you. While many disorders of the gums can be caused by poor dental hygiene, one potential cause for a painful bump on your gums that doesn't respond to good dental hygiene habits is a cold sore.


Despite their name, cold sores have nothing to do with cold temperatures. Cold sores are an oral form of the herpes virus, which can very easily be spread from person to person. You may have kissed someone with the disease, shared a straw or a lipstick, or eaten from the same utensil as them.

If you're grossed out at the idea of having oral herpes, don't fret: up to 90% of Americans have HSV-1, the version of the virus that causes cold sores. HSV-2 is what causes genital herpes, and if you have a cold sore, chances are HSV-1 is what caused it, not HSV-2.

While oral herpes generally shows up on the lips or near the front of the mouth, it can also appear on the gums in the form of a liquid-filled blister or bump.

It's Not A Canker Sore

It's easy to confuse a cold sore for a canker sore, because canker sores generally appear inside the mouth, while cold sores usually appear on the outside. However, the cause of canker sores is unknown, and cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus.


If you think you might have a cold sore on your gums, you should see a dentist right away. A dentist can determine whether it's a cold sore or something else, like an abscess.

If it is a cold sore, generally treatment involves anti-inflammatory pain killers and possibly a topical pain reliever, like an oral numbing gel. Your dentist may also decide to drain the sore in order to relieve the pressure and help your body to start the healing process. 

Prevention of Flare-ups

Once you have the herpes virus in your body, it will always stay with you. Some viruses, like chickenpox and herpes, lay dormant in your body until they flare-up and cause a symptom, like cold sores.

While there's no guaranteed way to make sure you never have another cold sore, keeping your stress levels low is the best way to avoid them. Stress, anxiety, and physical illness may cause a flare-up of the herpes and result in a cold sore. Whether you keep your stress down with meditation, regular spa days, or another stress-buster, it's the best way to avoid this painful and unpleasant problem.

Having a cold sore on your gums can be painful, irritating, and may take a while to heal. Thankfully, your dentist can easily determine if it's a cold sore and treat it accordingly.