Is Picking at Gums a Sign of a Disorder? 

In this blog, we are going to answer the question, “Is Picking at Gums a Sign of a Disorder?”, and also include body-focused repetitive behaviors, different disorders associated with picking gums, and also answer frequently asked questions. 

Is Picking at Gums a Sign of a Disorder?

Yes, picking at your gums can be a sign of a disorder like periodontitis, excoriation disorder, or a body-focused repetitive behavior. Let us understand these in detail. 

What are Body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs)? 

BFRBs include damaging desires such as biting, picking and pulling. A BFRB affects as many as one in every twenty people, although it is easy to dismiss them as “poor habits.” 

While BFRBs and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) have similar symptoms, they are not the same. They are also distinct from self-harming rituals such as self-cutting. Picking at gums is also one of them.

Causes of BFRB

Experts are still trying to figure this out, but they do know that your genes have a role. If a member of your family has a BFRB, you are more likely to have one as well. 

Other factors that could play a role include your personality, the amount of stress in your life, your background, and even the age at which you first noticed symptoms of a BFRB. They are more common in women than in men.

Periodontitis and Gum-related issues

How do Doctors make sure your gum-picking is an issue?

Your dentist may do the following tests to assess whether you have periodontitis and how severe it is:

  • Examine your medical history for any variables that may be contributing to your symptoms, such as smoking or using medications that cause dry mouth.

●  Examine your mouth for plaque and tartar accumulation, as well as any signs of easy bleeding.

●   Place a dental probe behind your tooth beneath your gum line, usually at numerous locations around your mouth, to measure the pocket depth of the groove between your gums and teeth. 

  • The pocket depth in a healthy mouth is normally between 1 and 3 millimeters (mm). Periodontitis may be indicated by pockets deeper than 4 mm. Pockets larger than 5 mm in depth cannot be effectively cleaned. 

●  Take dental X-rays to look for bone loss in locations where your dentist has noticed deeper pocket depths.

Your dentist can categorize periodontitis into stages and grades based on the severity of the illness, the difficulty of treatment, your risk factors, and your overall health.

Various other issues associated with picking and pulling

●     Dermatillomania

Dermatillomania, also known as excoriation disorder, occurs when you can’t stop picking at pimples, scabs, lumps, or even healthy skin. Doctors aren’t sure what causes it, but it’s more common in patients who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

Wearing bandages on your fingers or using a fidget spinner to keep your hands busy may help you stop picking so much.

●     Onychophagia

This BFRB is most likely known by its popular name: nail-biting. As many as 30% of people engage in this behavior, and others aren’t even aware of it. Aside from harming your skin and nails, this can also harm your teeth and cause infections. Keeping your nails short can be beneficial. You can also apply a particular bitter-tasting nail product.

●     Morsicatio Buccarum

People suffering from this type of BFRB are usually unable to stop biting the inside of their mouths. This causes blisters and swelling over time. 

The inner lining of your mouth may also become rough, making you want to chew it more. Because people frequently do this to self-soothe, it can be beneficial to find a different behaviour, such as chewing gum, that produces the similar sensation. 

●      Morsicatio Labiorum

This is when you feel compelled to chew, bite, or suck on your inner lip. It can cause the skin cells of your lip to slough off over time, resulting in a harsh white, grey, or yellow patch. Wearing a “lip bumper,” a device that keeps your bottom teeth from touching your lips, can help interrupt the pattern. Talk therapy might also assist you in dealing with the feelings that may be behind your BFRB.

●   Rhinotillexomania

You may have rhinotillexomania if you pick your nose so excessively that it interferes with your regular life. Some people spend hours each day trying to clean their noses. People who have this BFRB are also more likely to have another, such as skin picking or nail biting. 

Make a note of every time you experience the need to pick your nose and write down how you feel at the moment. This may assist you in determining your triggers and what to do about them

●     Trichophagia

As many as 20% of persons who pluck their hair consume it as well. Some individuals eat the roots by nibbling on them, while others eat them in large quantities. People consume other people’s or animal hair in extremely rare circumstances. You can have a hairball in your stomach if you swallow a lot of hair. If this occurs and it is not removed, it might be fatal.

What does picking up at gums look like in people?

●    Individuals with Trichotillomania, report that their picking behavior is either concentrated or unfocused/automatic. 

  • An emotional state (e.g., worry, grief, embarrassment, etc.) is often provoked by an external incident, which leads to focused picking (e.g., seeing themselves in the mirror or feeling a pimple).
  • Automatic picking, on the other hand, occurs without the individual’s knowledge, frequently during more sedentary tasks like watching television, reading, or typing.

This last type of picking frequently includes stroking, rubbing, squeezing, biting, and other forms of area picking episodes that might run anything from a few minutes to an hour or more.

●    Picking is commonly done using the individual’s fingernails, however other methods such as tweezers, pins, and other comparable devices can be used. The ensuing scab or skin may be played with or even eaten by the individual.

●  The pleasant feelings that occur from picking, as well as the alleviation from negative emotional states, during an episode are a significant component that contributes to continued picking despite the frequently visible evidence of damage, just as they are with people who have a hair-pulling problem (e.g., open sores and scarring).

  • There is also a strong desire to stop the behavior often due to shame and embarrassment. These characteristics are immensely satisfying, making it impossible to resist the impulse to pull.

Treatment for BFRB

If you have a BFRB, there are various things you can do to keep it from taking over your life. 


Cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT) may be the most beneficial. 

This sort of treatment assists you in becoming more conscious of your feelings and thoughts, as well as giving you more control over them. 


Medicines can also be beneficial at times. Consult your doctor and/or therapist to determine what is best for you.

Consult with a Dentist

A periodontist, dentist, or dental hygienist may provide treatment. The major goal of periodontitis therapy is to clean the pockets around a person’s teeth properly while preventing further bone deterioration. 

You have the highest chance of success if you also practise proper oral hygiene on a daily basis, address any health concerns that may affect your dental health, and quit smoking.


Nonsurgical treatments

If periodontitis is not very progressed, the treatment may include lesser invasive treatment options such as:

●  Scaling 

Scaling removes plaque and bacteria from your teeth’s surfaces as well as behind your gums. Instruments, a laser, or an ultrasonic device could be used.

●    Planing the roots

Root planing smooths the root surfaces, preventing future tartar and bacteria formation, as well as removing bacterial byproducts that cause inflammation and obstruct gum healing and reattachment to the tooth surfaces.

●    Antibiotics

Bacterial infection can be controlled with topical or oral medicines. It can include antibiotic mouth washes/rinses or the placement of antibiotic-containing gels between your teeth and gums or into pockets following extensive cleaning. 

Oral antibiotics, on the other hand, may be required to entirely remove infection-causing germs.

Surgical treatments

If you have advanced periodontitis, you may need to have major surgical procedures done, such as:

● Surgical correction of flaps (pocket reduction surgery)

Your periodontist will make small incisions in your gums to peel out a section of gum tissue, exposing the roots and allowing for more effective scaling and root planing. 

Because periodontitis often causes bone loss, the underlying bone may need to be recontoured before the gum tissue can be sutured back into place. Once you’ve healed, cleaning these areas and maintaining healthy gum tissue will be much easier.

●Grafts of soft tissue

When you lose gum tissue, your gum line recedes. Some of the soft tissue that has been damaged may need to be reinforced.

This is usually done by taking a small piece of tissue from the roof of your mouth (palate) or using tissue from another donor source and affixing it to the injured area. This can assist to prevent future gum recession, hide visible roots, and improve your teeth’s appearance.

●   Bone grafting 

This operation is utilised when periodontitis has destroyed the bone surrounding your tooth root. The transplant could be constructed of small fragments of your own bone, synthetic or donated bone, or a combination of the two. The bone transplant prevents tooth loss by securing your tooth in situ.

●    Tissue regeneration with guidance 

This makes it possible to regenerate bone that has been destroyed by germs. In one procedure, your dentist places a biocompatible fabric between your tooth and the existing bone. The material prevents unwanted tissue from entering the healing area, allowing bone to regenerate instead.

● Tissue-stimulating proteins (TSPs)

Applying a particular gel to a sick tooth root is another option. This gel contains the same proteins that are found in the formation of tooth enamel and helps to support the growth of healthy bone and tissue. 


We discussed various aspects of picking at your gums, different types of similar issues, various treatment options including therapy, surgical routes, non-surgical options, etc. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Is Picking at Gums a Sign of a Disorder?

What causes dermatillomania to occur?

Dermatillomania can be caused by unpleasant feelings such as anxiety, although it is not always the case; boredom, for example, is a typical trigger. Furthermore, any pain caused by skin-picking is rarely intended; rather, the behaviors are frequently perceived as soothing or calming, at least in the time.

Is excoriation an OCD symptom?

Excoriation disorder (also known as persistent skin-picking or dermatillomania) is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is distinguished by frequent picking at one’s own skin, which produces skin sores and substantial disturbance in one’s life.

What exactly is BFRB disorder?

Body-focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) include damaging desires such as biting, picking, and pulling. A BFRB affects as many as one in every twenty people, although it is easy to dismiss them as “poor habits.” While BFRBs and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have similar symptoms, they are not the same.

Is it a BFRB to pick your nose?

Rhinotillexomania is the medical term for compulsive nose-picking. It is a sort of recurrent body-focused behaviour (BFRB)

Can’t seem to quit picking scabs?

If you can’t stop picking at your skin, you may have skin picking disorder, which is a relatively prevalent ailment (SPD). We all pick at a scab or a bump now and then, but for individuals with SPD, controlling such cravings can be nearly impossible.

Why do I constantly keep picking at my gums?

Body-focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) include damaging desires such as biting, picking, and pulling. A BFRB affects as many as one in every twenty people, although it is easy to dismiss them as “poor habits.” While BFRBs and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have similar symptoms, they are not the same.


Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!