Do your gums bleed when brushing or when flossing? Are you waking in the morning with a taste of blood in your mouth? This article will help uncover the causes and give you tips on getting rid of such problems.
As with many dental problems, resolving an issue starts with taking a look at the causes. In brief, the common causes of bleeding gums include:
- Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis)
- Localised inflammation
There are rarer causes, some of which can be due to an underlying medical condition. Always seek professional advice if you have any persistent bleeding that goes on for more than a week or so.
Let’s look at the common causes in turn, and thus reveal how to treat bleeding gums.
The leading cause of bleeding gums, by far, is gum disease. When plaque is allowed to build up, the bacteria present within it can trigger an inflammatory response within the gingival tissues. This response is also known as gingivitis, and results in increased blood flow. Healthy gingival tissue adheres tightly to the teeth and is a coral pinkish colour. Inflamed gums (i.e. were gingivitis is present) are typically swollen, possibly sore or tender to touch, a deep red colour and bleed easily (for example when cleaning your teeth).
So how can you clear up the gingivitis, and stop your gums from bleeding? A proper oral hygiene routine is key, for lots more information read through our section on oral hygiene beginning here. But here are some quick home remedy tips to start:
- Brush twice daily, for at least 2 min each time, making sure not to miss any corners of the mouth
- Flossing everyday, or using some other tool (like a water pik) to clean between the teeth, is also essential
- A mouthwash is valuable with gingival disease, although generally not as important as brushing teeth and flossing is. Even a salt-water mix can be of use, but some mouth rinses are formulated to specifically help tackle gingivitis.
If the problem persists, despite any improved oral hygiene efforts, get your dentist for advice. You may well need treatment such as scaling of the teeth. Never ignore the symptom, as the disease can progress if left untreated.
Sometimes the harm can be self-inflicted, as we can unwittingly damage our gums by overaggressive brushing. Despite you may think, or have been used to doing, you really don’t need to put much force into the brush when cleaning your teeth. Effective cleaning will result from gentle circular motions of the brush head, ensuring that you get round every tooth surface, as opposed to wildly thrashing the toothbrush about.
If you are over brushing, not only can you cause the gums bleed, but you can also cause abrasive damage to the enamel and contribute to receding gums in the long term. So is important to train yourself into using a proper technique if you are brushing over-aggressively. Many modern electric brushes have pressure sensors included, which can help the user reduce forces on the teeth. You may benefit from using one of these brushes if you can’t get out of the habit of brushing too forcefully.
Note that improper use of floss can also lead to bleeding. Go here for notes on how to floss properly.
Infections or abscesses
A localised infection, or abscess, can arise from a disease tooth or advanced periodontal disease. Such infections commonly lead to blood flow from the gum area, which will typically be sore and swollen. In such instances always get your dentist as soon as possible.
An acute local inflammatory reaction can develop in the gums in the presence of foreign body. For example, a piece of food lodging between the teeth can irritate the tissues, causing them to bleed. Thoroughly clean and floss the area and use a mouthwash. Should the problem not clear up within a day or two, or you get such issues frequently, visit your dentist.
Some medical conditions can present with gingival bleeding as a symptom. These include vitamin K deficiency, leukemia and any disease that interferes with normal blood clotting.
Note that bleeding gums in pregnancy is common. This is mainly down to an increased inflammatory reaction in the gingival tissues to any dental plaque bacteria that is present. It usually settles down after pregnancy, but should always be checked over by your dentist.
Another common phenomenon is an increase in bleeding after someone stops smoking. Tobacco smoke reduces blood flow, and thus can mask any gingivitis. Once stopped, the diseased gums’ blood flow will no longer be inhibited. The smoker can think stopping has brought on the problem! Of course this is not the case.
Treatment for bleeding gums
How to treat the problem, of course, depends on the cause. There is no ‘magic cure’ for the problem. In the vast majority of cases, the root cause is a lack of sufficient oral hygiene, which has resulted in gingival inflammation.
Try to improve your oral hygiene, and contact your dentist if there is no improvement after a week or so. Of course, attend your dentist regularly for check-ups anyway.
Dental treatment will start with an examination to determine the cause. You may need a simple scale and polish to remove tartar (‘calculus‘) or extensive periodontal therapy, depending on the severity of the gum disease. If you have a localized problem (e.g. an overhanging filling, an ill-fitting crown or bridge) that is making cleaning difficult, this may need treated.
See more on gum disease treatment here.
For most people, having bleeding gums will be down to the presence of inflammation (gingivitis), as a result of plaque buildup. Never ignore the problem, as you may leave yourself open to the risk of severe periodontal disease in the long-term.
The advice is simple, improve your oral hygiene if necessary and always get to your dentist for advice, especially should the bleeding persist for more than a week or so. The majority of cases are easily treatable, if caught early enough!
Next: Read our post “Top 10 tips to stop bleeding gums once and for all“