Even on the parts of your skin where you don't traditionally grow hair, you still have hair follicles. You have close to 5 million of these follicles on your body, even though the majority of them do not grow hair that is noticeable. This is a throwback to when humans didn't have the benefits of central heating, lived in caves, and needed thick fur for protection. So since you can grow a hair almost anywhere on your body, the sebaceous gland directly underneath these follicles can become clogged, which leads to a pimple. Yes, it's possible to get a pimple practically anywhere on your skin. You might opt to pop this pimple or you might just be disciplined and wait for it to go away of its own accord. But what about when the pimple is in a really strange location. What about when you notice a pimple on your gum?
Not Really a Pimple
While that small white mound on your gum looks just like a pimple, it's in fact a dental fistula (also known as a dental boil). This occurs when an infection in your gum has produced pus, and your body is looking for a way to drain that pus. This infection is a dental abscess, which will need to be treated.
Is the Tooth Damaged?
You might already be aware of the reason for the abscess if you have noticed that tooth is damaged. A small chip or crack in a tooth can allow bacteria to enter the gum where the abscess begins to grow. This can also be caused by periodontal (dental) disease.
Types of Infection
A gum abscess occurs when the infection grows in the miniscule space between the tooth and the gum. A gum abscess is generally quite painful, so you will be aware of the problem before the dental fistula becomes visible. A tooth abscess occurs when the infection grows at the base of the tooth itself. This usually happens when the tooth is severely damaged, which you probably will have noticed. When the tooth is damaged, you might not have any pain and will only become aware of the fistula when it appears.
Do not pop this so-called gum pimple, as this can make the situation worse. They will sometimes burst of their own accord, and the taste can be unpleasant, so be sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly. Lightly salted warm water is best, as it also has antiseptic properties. A warm teabag placed on the fistula can act like a warm compress, and will often burst the fistula. Just because the "pimple has popped" it doesn't mean the problem is over. You will need to make an appointment with your dentist.
Fixing the Cause
Your dentist will give you antibiotics to clear the infection and may also place adhesive dental gauze over the fistula, allowing it to drain completely. Once the infection is gone, your dentist will need to fix the cause of the infection, which is the damaged tooth. You might be referred to an endodontist, which is a dentist who specialises in root canals. The soft pulp inside the tooth is removed, and the tooth is then sealed, preventing reinfection. If the tooth is so damaged that a root canal is not possible, then endodontics will not be of much help. The tooth will need to be removed, and a prosthetic replacement can be inserted if desired.
So while that white lump on your gum might look just like a pimple, remember that it's more serious. It will take more than popping it to fix the problem. For more information, contact a practice like Inner West Endodontics.