Sometimes there are traces of red when biting into an apple. Others discover blood when spitting after brushing their teeth. No matter how bleeding gums are noticed: this is a warning sign, indicating a gum inflammation (gingivitis) or an inflammation of the periodontium (periodontitis). At worst, tooth loss is the outcome.
Healthy gums do not bleed. They are pale pink firm and have a corrugated profile. Diseased inflamed gums however are dark red, soft and sensitive. They bleed easily and smell unpleasant.
What causes bleeding gums
gum disease is one of the main causes of bleeding gums, and insufficient oral care is the main reason for gum disease. there are a few specific things that might explain why your gums bleed at a particular time.
Bleeding gums most commonly result from inadequate plaque removal from the teeth at the gum line, resulting in a condition called gingivitis, or inflamed gums. Infection of the gum line is a common cause of bleeding gums. If plaque is not removed it will harden into what is called tartar, resulting in increased bleeding and potentially a more advanced form of gum and jawbone disease known as periodontitis.
Conditions that can cause bleeding gums include certain vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin K deficiency and vitamin C deficiency, which causes scurvy. Other bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia, leukemia, and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, can cause bleeding gums. The use of medications, such as blood thinners and chemotherapy agents, can also cause bleeding gums as a side effect.
Gum bleeds when brushing teeth
Have you noticed your gums bleeding when brushing your teeth? Healthy gums shouldn’t result in bleeding gums when brushing with the proper technique, so this is probably a sign of gum disease. But it’s not all bad news; the fact that your gums bleed when brushing your teeth at least means you’re brushing where it’s really needed – down at the gum line, which will eventually help to improve gum health.
Improving your oral care routine or switching to a new toothbrush often causes gums to start bleeding when brushing. You might be doing a better job at removing that plaque, but it’s irritating your gums at the same time. Give your mouth a little while to get used to your new habits and see if the bleeding reduces. Similarly, if your gum is bleeding around one tooth when you brush, give that tooth some special attention for the next few days and see if it improves.
You might be tempted to avoid the swollen area to avoid hurting a bleeding gum when brushing, but that will only encourage more plaque to build up and make the problem worse. And remember, your gums won’t stop bleeding until you’ve practiced healthy brushing and flossing habits for a while.
Gums bleed when flossing
Flossing should be a part of your daily oral hygiene routine for healthy gums. It helps clear away food and plaque from between the teeth and below the gum line. In reality, of course, very few people floss daily – if at all.
If you have just started flossing, or you only do it occasionally, you shouldn’t be all that surprised to see gums bleed when flossing. You may be wondering, “why do my gums bleed when I floss?” The answer to this is that there is probably already some plaque buildup on your teeth which has caused your gums to become inflamed and sensitive. Start flossing regularly and you should notice your gums bleed less and less.
Another reason for gums bleeding when flossing or bleeding gums after flossing is improper technique. If you snap dental floss into your gum with too much force, it can damage the tissue and cause bleeding..
Many people find that a water flosser is easier to use – and much more gentle on gums – than traditional dental floss. These devices, also known as oral irrigators, shoot a jet of water between each of your teeth.
Bleeding gums without brushing
If you have particularly sensitive gums as a result of gum disease, simply eating food may be enough to cause them to bleed – especially hard or crunchy food.
Another possible reason for bleeding, inflamed or swollen gums between teeth is that some food has got stuck – often resulting in the gum bleeding around one tooth only. If you can’t dislodge any food by flossing (a water flosser is preferable to avoid pushing it down further) then ask your dentist to check it out.
The most common causes of night bleeding are bruxism — or teeth grinding, periodontitis and the presence of periodontal bacteria. If you notice the presence of blood in your mouth when you wake up, be sure to schedule a visit with your dentist.
What if your gums are bleeding randomly, not just when you brush or eat? It’s alarming to see your gums bleeding for no reason, and certainly doesn’t point to healthy gums. This is probably a sign that your teeth need a proper cleaning at the dentist before you develop more serious gum disease.
Bleeding gums during pregnancy
It’s quite common for women to experience swollen or bleeding gums while pregnant, especially during early pregnancy. This is because the hormonal changes that happen around this time encourage bacteria growth in the mouth, as well as making gum tissue more sensitive.
Even if you have impeccable oral hygiene and generally healthy gums, you may still develop what’s known as ‘pregnancy gingivitis’. And if you already have gum disease when you become pregnant, there is a greater risk of it developing into periodontitis.
Periodontal disease in pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight, preterm birth and pre-eclampsia. To reduce your chances of gum disease and bleeding gums during pregnancy, you can:
- Visit your dentist for regular tooth cleanings while you’re trying to get pregnant and throughout your pregnancy
- Tell your dentist that you’re trying or expecting so that he or she can give you the right care and advice
- Brush twice a day and floss daily
- Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A, C & D, calcium, protein and phosphorus in your diet. If you want to take a pregnancy supplement, follow these guidelines from the Mayo Clinicand make sure you talk to your obstetrician before starting any supplements.
If you do get bleeding gums while pregnant despite all of this, don’t hesitate to see your dentist. Medicaid is free for pregnant women under a certain income level in most states and covers dental treatment.
Child, toddler or baby bleeding gums
Noticing that your child or baby’s gums are bleeding is even more alarming than when it’s your own mouth. Remember, first of all, that babies and toddlers love putting things in their mouths. It’s easy for them to pick up a small injury in this way which causes their gums to bleed.
But if you notice your child’s gums bleeding right along the gum line, or if their gums are just red and sore around the teeth, it’s probably one of three things:
- Sore or bleeding gums in children can be caused by gum disease from poor oral hygiene, just as with adults. You may also notice receding gums and/or bad breath.
- Switching to a new toothbrush might give your child or toddler bleeding gums – always choose a toothbrush with soft bristles.
- Brushing too hard can damage your child’s tender gums – use gentle pressure and help or supervise until they are six or seven years old.
You should take your baby for regular dental checkups as soon as they have their first tooth. Not only does this let their dentist spot any problems early on; it also gets them used to the experience so visiting the dentist isn’t as scary when they get older.
What are the potential complications of bleeding gums?
Because bleeding gums can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:
- Heart disease
- Severe bleeding
- Tooth loss
How to stop bleeding gums
You’ve probably worked out by now that there is no instant cure for bleeding gums, but you still may be wondering how to stop gums from bleeding: the best way to treat bleeding gums is by improving your oral hygiene. You might also need to visit your dentist for a thorough dental cleaning, known as scaling, to properly remove all the plaque below the gum line.
If your gum disease is in the early stages, you may be able to reverse it and stop your gums from bleeding by adopting these habits for better oral hygiene and healthy gums:
If you are wondering how to strengthen gums, there are various products which may help stop bleeding, redness or soreness and achieve a healthy gum by targeting the underlying causes like plaque buildup. Keep in mind that these should be used in conjunction with the good oral care habits mentioned above. You may be wondering how to stop gum bleeding immediately, but good gum health habits require daily and consistent effort; a new toothpaste won’t help much if you only brush every other day.
Best electric toothbrush for bleeding gums
Brushing and flossing is the best bleeding gums treatment. If you’re unsure how to brush and floss your teeth properly, don’t feel shy about asking your dentist to show you the correct technique next time you visit. Doing it right can make all the difference to your oral health. People who struggle to clean their teeth properly often find that switching to an electric toothbrush makes a big difference.
Your gums may continue bleed when you first brush with an electric toothbrush – the bleeding may even get temporarily worse. That’s usually just a sign that your improved brushing is working, so keep it up for a few days and you should notice a difference.
Best toothpaste for bleeding gums
Lots of mainstream brands make ‘gum care’ toothpastes with ingredients to target gingivitis and contains stannous fluoride which helps strengthen teeth and keep the seal between gums and teeth tight.
Best mouthwash for bleeding gums
Listerine makes a medicated mouthwash specifically for treating and preventing gingivitis. You can use this product everyday as part of your daily oral health routine for long-term healthy gums or only when your gums are bleeding. Any kind of antiseptic mouthwash will help fight the bacteria that cause red, sore gums.
How to Floss Properly
If you’ve been to the dentist and he or she doesn’t see any gingivitis or tartar, that it’s possible you may be flossing incorrectly. “To properly floss, take a piece of floss that’s approximately shoulder-width in length (about 18 inches) and wrap it around your index fingers so that there’s about an inch of floss when held tight between your hands. “Then you’ll slide the floss between the teeth. There’s a small triangle of tissue between each of your teeth — pass the floss on one side of the triangle, hugging the tooth by making a small C shape with the floss, gently allowing it to pass just under the edge of the gums until you feel resistance, and slide the floss up and down a few times to scrub the plaque off of the teeth.”
Repeat that same process on the other side of the triangle of tissue before moving to the next tooth. Ideally, you want to use a new section of floss between each tooth to avoid redepositing the bacteria you’re removing.
Home remedies for bleeding gums
If you prefer to try a natural homemade remedy for bleeding gums, a simple salt water rinse can help reduce bacteria and soothe irritated gums. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water, swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds, then spit it out. You can do this two or three times a day.
Coconut oil is another one of the popular bleeding gums home remedies. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and a study has shown that swishing it around your mouth and between your teeth (known as oil ‘pulling’) can significantly decrease plaque-induced gingivitis and lead to healthy gums.
Visit the dentist at least once every 6 months for plaque removal. Follow your dentist’s home care instructions.
It can help to follow a balanced, healthy diet. Try to avoid snacking between meals and cut down on the carbohydrates you eat.
Other tips to help with bleeding gums:
- Have a periodontal exam.
- DO NOT use tobacco, since it makes bleeding gums worse. Tobacco use can also mask other problems that cause bleeding of the gums.
- Control gum bleeding by applying pressure directly on the gums with a gauze pad soaked in ice water.
- If you have been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency, take vitamin supplements.
- Avoid aspirin unless your health care provider has recommended that you take it.
- If side effects of a medicine are causing the bleeding gums, ask your provider to prescribe a different drug. Never change your medicine without first talking to your provider.
- Use an oral irrigation device on the low setting to massage your gums.
- See your dentist if your dentures or other dental appliances do not fit well or are causing sore spots on your gums.
How Long Before Bleeding Gums Heal?
If you’re starting a new flossing routine, it can take a week or so for your gums to settle down and potentially stop bleeding. If you’re dealing with gingivitis, individual prognosises vary, so it’s best to talk with your dentist first. After talking with your dentist, using an antigingivitis toothpaste — which has been shown to significantly reduce plaque and bleeding gums.
However, if the plaque between your teeth has mineralized and become stuck, you’ll likely need to call in the pros, as you may be dealing with tartar. “no amount of brushing or flossing” will remove tartar, which means you’ll need to have your teeth professionally cleaned at your dentist’s office.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Consult your provider if:
- The bleeding is severe or long-term (chronic)
- Your gums continue to bleed even after treatment
- You have other unexplained symptoms with the bleeding
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums and ask you about the problem. Your dentist will also ask about your oral care habits. You may also be asked about your diet and the medicines you take.
Tests that may be performed include:
- Blood studies such as a CBC(complete blood count) or blood differential
- X-rays of your teeth and jawbone