As a dental hygienist, bleeding gums are probably the number one complaint I get asked about on a daily basis. My patients often ask questions such as:
Why do my gums bleed when I brush? What are bleeding gums a sign of? Is bleeding gums serious? How do I get my gums to stop bleeding?
Well today I’m going to help answer these questions.
Bleeding gums are not normal. Even though it is not always the sign of a life threatening condition, it should always be addressed as soon as possible. If you have consistently bleeding gums, then you should visit your dentist as soon as possible.
Causes of bleeding gums
Causes of bleeding gums can be from, but are not limited to: gingivitis or periodontitis, injury, trauma, hormones, pregnancy gingivitis, aggressive brushing or flossing or an underlying disease or illness.
7 Causes of bleeding gums
- Injury or trauma
- Vitamin C Deficiency
Gingivitis and bleeding gums
The leading cause of bleeding gums is due to poor oral hygiene causing a condition called gingivitis. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance into a gum disease called periodontitis.
If not brushing and flossing properly, plaque on the teeth can be left behind. This can cause cavities and gum disease.
If plaque is left along the gum line too long, it can cause the gums to become inflamed, red, swollen and to bleed easily. This is a a form of gum disease called gingivitis. The plaque is full of bacteria which produces acids that irritate the gums and cause them to bleed easily. Gingivitis can cause a red line around the gum margin and also it can cause the gums to be tender.
How to treat gingivitis
Luckily, gingivitis is curable and reversible with proper oral hygiene. Here are things you can do to treat gingivitis:
- Brush thoroughly at least 2 times daily- be sure to brush well. Pay close attention to brushing well at your gum line. Your toothbrush bristles should be angled at a 45 degree angle toward your gum line.
- Be sure to floss daily. Instead of just popping the floss in and out, be sure to “hug” the side of each tooth and gently scrub up and down to the gums several times on each side and in between each tooth.
- Use a soft bristled toothbrush. Any bristle strength other than soft is too abrasive for gums and teeth. Anything else can cause more damage and bleeding to your gums.
- Use an antiseptic mouth rinse to help with bacteria.
- Rinse with warm salt water several times per day.(1/2 tsp salt mixed with 8 oz warm water). This can help soothe and heal gums.
- See your dentists at least every 6 months for a routine cleaning and dental exam. Address them with any concerns.
Gingivitis can reverse with the proper oral hygiene listed above within a week or two. If the gingivitis is not resolved within at least 2 weeks, I would see your dentist as soon as possible to rule out other conditions.
Best oral hygiene products that help gingivitis
Here is a list of my favorite oral care products that I personally recommend to my patients, friends and family. I will also link more in depth articles I have written about each product.
- The BURST sonic toothbrush: This brush has multi layered long, thin and tapered bristles which are great for sweeping under the gum line and cleaning very well in between teeth. I have tested MANY toothbrushes and this one is very affordable and in my opinion the absolute best electric toothbrush on the market. Read more about it below, and also feel free to use my dental hygiene promo code FFERVX to save 42% off or $30 off your sonic toothbrush making it only $39.99 BURST Sonic Toothbrush Review
- CloSYS Mouthwash– contains active ingredient Cloralstan. This ingredient has the power to kill 99% of bad bacteria within 10 seconds and prevents it from regrowing. Great for those with gingivitis. Read more about it > CloSYS Review
- Coco Floss-This floss is the BEST floss I have ever used! It has 500 filaments of thick fibers that scrape plaque off like no other. And you can SEE it! They colored the floss so you can see it! Pretty gross but cool. It also has some other cool features, check it out below CoCo Floss Review
Periodontitis and bleeding gums
If gingivitis is left untreated it can develop into a more advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis.
If plaque is left on the teeth too long, it can harden into a calcified material called calculus or tartar. Once plaque is turned into calculus, you need to visit you dental hygienist to get a routine cleaning and exam. Your dental professional will need to use special tools to remove the hardened plaque.
If you develop periodontitis or perio disease, your dental professional will likely perform a procedure on you called scaling and root planing. You need to get this resolved quickly as perio disease can contribute to bone loss which can then lead to tooth loss. Periodontitis is not reversible but you can treat it and stop it from advancing.
Gum disease has been becoming increasingly linked to overall health. Studies have shown many links to heart disease, diabetes and strokes.
Diseases (Diabetes, Cancer, HIV/AIDS)
Certain diseases can cause havoc not only on your body but they can take a toll on your mouth as well.
Diabetes, Cancer and HIV/AIDS are three of the more common diseases that can affect the mouth and gum health.
Bleeding gums can be a sign of cancer. If your gums bleed easily, there are certain cancers such as Leukemia which is cancer of the blood cells. Be sure to have regular doctor visits and routine blood work.
Most often, bleeding gums are due to poor hygiene but if you think you have a more serious condition such as cancer, diabetes or HIV see your doctor as soon as possible. This is why annual exams with your physician are important.
There are certain medications that can cause gums to bleed easily or cause gums to swell. Blood thinners can cause gums to bleed easily. Certain seizure medications such can cause gums to swell which in turn can lead to gum bleeding and other dental problems. Certain blood pressure and other medications can cause mouth issues as well. Check with your doctor if you have bleeding gums or swollen gums and on any medications.
Hormonal changes can have an affect on gum health as well. Pregnancy, puberty and menopause can cause hormones to skyrocket leaving gums sensitive and inflamed.
Hormomal changes from pregnancy can lead to bleeding gums. The extra hormones in your body can likely cause puffy gums and sensitivity. This is called pregnancy gingivitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is gingivitis that can happen during pregnancy.
Make sure to continue brushing at least 2x daily. Every morning, every night. Floss daily. Flossing can help prevent cavities in between teeth and gum disease. Maintaining good oral habits can help reduce inflammation and gum irritation. Pregnancy gingivitis will go away with proper oral hygiene.
Read more about pregnancy and teeth here> Oral Health and Pregnancy
Vitamin C Deficiency
Scurvy or a severe vitamin C deficiency disease can be a cause of bleeding and swollen gums. This isn’t likely in developed countries but check with your doctor if you think you may have a vitamin deficiency.
Trauma or Injury
If you have a bleeding gums due to trauma see your dentist as soon as possible. They will need to examine the area to see if anything needs to be treated.
Sometimes you can cause accidental trauma to your gum tissues by brushing too hard. Always use a soft bristled tooth brush and brush in gentle motions as to avoid tissue trauma.
Dental appliances such as braces or ill fitting dentures can cause gum sores as well. If this is your case, see your dentist so they can make adjustments as needed.
If you have swollen gums, check out this article- Swollen Gums
Kelly Hancock, RDH
Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.