Gums causing you discomfort? A home remedy could do the trick.

iStockphoto.com/Thinkstock

The smallest physical ailments have the power to dampen your mood and alter your day. Swollen gums, like the proverbial sore thumb, are one such problem. Left unchecked, they also have the potential to be more than a small issue, causing decay, pain and even tooth loss and the expenses that go along with major dental care. But you don't want to rely on some remedy offered over the counter with who-knows-what ingredients. Thankfully, there's a host of ways to combat the troublesome issue at home with completely natural solutions.

Perhaps the single best long-term answer is prevention. In the vast majority of cases, swollen gums are caused by bacteria in your mouth. A thorough hygiene plan for your teeth and gums can help you avoid dealing with irritated and unsightly gums to begin with. But even the best-laid plans can fall short. Ironically, the chemicals and alcohol found in popular toothpastes and mouthwashes have the potential to bother your otherwise clean, pink gum line [source: The Mouth Doctor]. Other causes include a lack of vitamin C, side effects from medications like birth control pills or poorly fitting dentures [source: Natural Home-Remedies.org].

In the short-term, while you're dealing with the discomfort and unsightliness of swollen gums, you can turn to nature for relief. Some natural remedies may include nothing more than a single ingredient like salt, while others may seem like you're preparing a fancy dinner dish. The availability of the ingredients in your home or local stores -- and the intensity of your discomfort -- will dictate what options you're willing to try. Start with what you've got handy and proceed from there.

Naturally, if your symptoms (pain, discoloration of the gum line and, particularly, the teeth) are worsening, see your dentist. While swelling of the gums is quite common, it can lead to tooth extractions and even tissue and bone grafting if it's not addressed. In that case, you'll be dealing with more than a minimal irritant -- most likely a physical and financial pain of considerable proportions [source: The Mouth Doctor]. If the pain is particularly severe and is accompanied by a fever, see your doctor immediately [source: Better Medicine].

Next, the ways to get you smiling again.