Guide to Bleeding Gums
Even if you do a decent job at taking care of your teeth, you may have had bleeding gums at some point in your life. It can be a scary thing to experience, especially when you spit out blood after brushing your teeth before bed.
While bleeding gums don’t always mean the worst possibility — and sometimes only happen for minor reasons — they may be a warning sign for poor dental health on some level. It’s not a symptom that you should ignore, especially if it happens frequently.
Let’s take a look at bleeding gums causes, how to stop the problem at home, how to prevent it and when you should visit a dentist for bleeding gums treatment.
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Why Is Gum Health Important?
Our gums may seem trivial, but they serve an essential purpose — protecting our teeth and their roots from bacteria. If your gums aren’t healthy, they can’t fulfill this role as well, so bacteria can get underneath your teeth and begin to damage your tissues — a condition known as gum disease. Gum disease in its early stage may be the cause of your gums’ bleeding. This issue can also lead to tooth sensitivity and bad breath. Bleeding gums are abnormal, and ignoring this symptom can let the condition progress.
Eventually, gum disease can lead to damaged, loose teeth that could fall out. Advanced dental issues can require complex, long-term and sometimes costly treatment.
Tooth loss is not the only problem caused by gum-related issues. People who struggle with severe gum disease may be at higher risk for serious medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory problems and complications during pregnancy.
For these reasons and for your overall dental health, it’s crucial to take proper care of your gums — and the rest of your mouth, for that matter! An easy way to gauge how healthy your gums are is to look for a soft shade of pink, not red. They should also form a “C” shape where they meet the bottom of your tooth.
What Causes Gums to Bleed?
As we stated above, bleeding gums don’t always indicate that something is wrong. This issue is very common, but it does require your attention when you notice it. Bleeding gums are one of the first signs of gum disease, which in its early stages is quite treatable and can be reversed in many cases. Most people will experience some degree of gum disease at some point in their lives. The most important action you can take is to be proactive with your gum health.
Although common, gum disease is not the only cause of bleeding gums. Here are six common causes of bleeding gums that could explain why you’re experiencing this issue.
1. Brushing Too Hard
Some people are under the impression that the harder you brush, the cleaner your teeth will be. While this idea is true to a degree, you can still brush too hard. Even though you may be ridding your teeth of more bacteria, you could also be damaging and breaking down your gums. In turn, this behavior leads to more plaque and bacteria getting underneath your teeth and into your gumline, causing pain, discomfort and bleeding.
If your gums have started bleeding, look at your toothbrush to see if you’re brushing too hard — the bristles shouldn’t be bent and fraying. If they are, try finding a toothbrush with softer bristles and brushing a bit lighter than usual. You do need to use some pressure, but it shouldn’t be so much that you’re causing your gums to bleed.
Flossing is another relatively harmless cause of bleeding gums. For example, if you’ve recently started a flossing routine, your gums will most likely bleed a little bit until they build up a tolerance to it. This process usually takes about a week, as long as you continue to floss on a regular basis.
If you’ve been flossing regularly for some time now and still see blood on your floss, you may be flossing improperly. Remember, you don’t need to dig very hard into the gums — just glide the floss between your teeth and gums as gently as possible. You don’t need to make any aggressive back-and-forth motions.
Medicine like blood thinners have the potential to cause your gums to bleed more often than usual. Even over-the-counter pills like Ibuprofen and Asprin can contribute to bleeding gums. Be sure to inform your dentist about any medications you’re on, even if you don’t think they affect your dental health.
If it does turn out that one of your medications is causing bleeding gums, your doctor may be able to adjust your dosage so that this side effect no longer occurs.
Pregnancy is known to cause a heap of side effects. Morning sickness and nausea, weird food cravings and having to pee a lot surely top the list, but you can add bleeding gums to that lineup too.
Known as “pregnancy gingivitis,” having bleeding, tender or inflamed gums while pregnant is common for many women due to the hormonal changes the body goes through during pregnancy. Regular brushing and flossing are especially crucial for pregnant women as a result. However, you should be even more gentle than usual due to the increased sensitivity of your gums.
5. Gum Disease
If none of the above causes apply to your situation, you might be dealing with some form of gum disease. There are several levels of gum disease, and it’s treatable if you catch it in the early stages. Depending on your symptoms, you may be dealing with one of the following:
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis is essentially the early stage of gum disease. In this stage, the side effects are reversible, and you’re not guaranteed to develop advanced gum disease. Still, it occurs due to a buildup of plaque and bacteria between the teeth and gums. Bleeding gums is the most common side effect of gingivitis, along with sensitive or inflamed gums and bad breath.
- Periodontitis: If left untreated, gingivitis will eventually turn into periodontitis, an advanced stage of gum disease. When the inflammation and infection of gingivitis spread to the bone and ligaments that support the teeth, it could lead to tooth decay and loss. The plaque and bacteria that attack the gums and teeth could also lead to a tooth abscess, which will increase how quickly the bones break down.
6. Other Health Conditions
Although gum disease is the most common medical condition that causes bleeding gums, it’s not the only one. Several other possibilities exist, including the following:
- Low platelet count
- Tooth cavities
- Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)
- Pernicious anemia
- Von Willebrand disease
- Factor V deficiency
- Factor VII deficiency
- Factor X deficiency
- Temporal arteritis
- And more
How to Stop Bleeding Gums at Home
While the right bleeding gums cure will depend on the actual cause for your unique case, you can try a few methods at home to stop your gums from bleeding. Here are a few of them:
- Apply a cold compress: By applying a cold compress to your gumline, you can restrict blood flow and reduce the swelling to potentially stop the bleeding. Use either a cold cloth or an ice pack a few times each day — 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off.
- Insert damp gauze: If your gums continually bleed, try inserting damp gauze. Wash your hands and fold a piece of medical gauze. Wet the gauze with cool water, squeezing out any excess, and insert it where the bleeding occurs. You can replace the gauze every 30 minutes or hourly as needed.
- Avoid alcohol-based mouthwashes: Alcohol-based mouthwashes are helpful for killing bacteria and freshening your breath, but they’re also known to dry out the mouth. This issue can be very irritating for already inflamed or swollen gums, and it could cause them to bleed more than usual.
- Rinse with hydrogen peroxide: Instead of an alcohol-based mouthwash, try rinsing your mouth with a hydrogen peroxide solution. Mix two parts of water with one part of 3% hydrogen peroxide. You can gently swish the rinse inside your mouth or gargle for 30 seconds. Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic prized for its cleansing properties. Along with potentially stopping the bleeding, the liquid kills bacteria and even whitens your teeth.
- Rinse with salt water: If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide in your home, a saline solution is a handy option that acts as a natural disinfectant. Just add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and gently swish or gargle the solution for 30 seconds.
How Long Does it Take For Gums to Stop Bleeding?
If your gums bleed when you floss or brush, it may feel like you’re doing more harm than good. However, proper hygiene prevents gum disease and other oral health issues that may be causing your gums to bleed. Unless there is an underlying dental issue or actual physical damage to your gum tissue, the bleeding should stop within three to 10 days. This span is how long it usually takes for gums to heal or adjust to a new dental hygiene routine, such as introducing flossing into your daily habits.
Many patients are tempted to stop flossing or avoid brushing a certain area if they experience bleeding gums. However, if your gums bleed, continue following your recommended daily oral hygiene routine, including brushing twice a day and flossing. Do not skip over the areas where your gums are bleeding.
If, after 10 days, your gums continue to bleed, you may need to reexamine your flossing and brushing techniques to ensure you’re using the proper methods.
How to Prevent Gums From Bleeding in the Future
If it seems like your gums are bleeding a little too frequently, you may want to consider making some lifestyle changes to prevent it from happening more in the future. Not only is it inconvenient and unpleasant to experience, but it’s a sign that your dental health isn’t in the best shape. Luckily, you can make some simple changes that will improve not only your dental health but also your overall well-being:
- Improve your dental hygiene skills: The best way to keep your gums healthy is by practicing proper oral hygiene. Brush and floss at least twice a day, preferably three times — or after every meal. Avoid snacking throughout the day without brushing afterward too. Be sure to brush for about two minutes each time to ensure that you remove as much plaque as possible.
- Upgrade to a softer toothbrush: If your gums are prone to bleeding, you may need to opt for a toothbrush with softer bristles. Better yet, buy an electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing the bacteria and plaque that collects along the gumline. Plus, the bristles move faster than you could ever brush manually, and you don’t have to “scrub” the gums quite as hard to get the same effect.
- Avoid tobacco products: Tobacco products in any form — smoking, chewing, etc. — are incredibly harmful to your mouth, especially if you’re someone who frequently deals with bleeding gums.
- Adjust your medications: If you take prescribed blood thinners or over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or Advil, you may experience abnormal bleeding gums. Depending on your level of need for these medications, you may be able to lower your dosage to avoid the negative side effect of bleeding gums. Work with your doctor to find out if such a change is a possibility.
- Maintain a healthy diet: Just like they impact our overall health, the foods we eat affect our oral health. Sugars and other carbohydrates leave behind food for bacteria, which helps them grow. Snacking without brushing afterward can also promote bacteria growth. Aside from eating healthier foods and fewer carbs, you can also eat probiotics and fermented foods. Probiotics convert sugars into lactic acid, which prevents harmful bacteria from building up on your teeth and gums.
- Breathe through your nose more often: If you find that you breathe through your mouth more often than not, try to change this habit — your dentist can give you advice on how. Breathing through your mouth leads to dry mouth, which alters the pH balance of your mouth and encourages the wrong kinds of bacteria to proliferate. Signs that you breathe through your mouth at night include waking up with dry mouth and swollen, red anterior gums — but not the posterior gums.
- Lower your stress levels: Stress can have many side effects, and one of them is an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. One study suggests that emotional stress harms the body’s immune system, which weakens its normal defenses against gum infections. People also tend to neglect self-care when they’re feeling stressed. For example, you may forget to brush your teeth as you’re rushing out the door in the morning. Or, perhaps you’re so tired after eating dinner that you just fall asleep without brushing or flossing. This behavior contributes to the accumulation of bacteria and plaque on the teeth and gums, which can eventually turn into gum disease.
- See your dentist regularly: Many people who suffer from gum disease wait until it’s too late to see their dentist about it. While it’s treatable in its early stages (gingivitis), dentures may be the only solution for people in the advanced stages of gum disease. That’s why it’s important to visit your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup. They’ll be able to catch any warning signs of periodontitis and help you learn more about proper oral hygiene. If you frequently deal with bleeding gums, you may consider visiting your dentist more often than twice a year.
When You Should See a Dentist for Bleeding Gums
To avoid reaching the critical stages of gum disease, you need to know when it’s time to see a dentist about your bleeding gums. As a general rule of thumb, you should see a dental professional if your gums bleed every day for more than seven days. However, there are a few additional factors and warning signs to look out for as well, including:
- Sensitive teeth
- Red and/or inflamed gums
- Loose teeth
- High blood sugar levels
- A bitter taste in the mouth
- Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures in the gums
- Painful joints
- Bad breath
- Changes in alignment of top and bottom teeth
- Digestive issues
When you make an appointment with your dentist, they may take several approaches to first identifying whether you have gum disease or another condition, then treating the issue. The most common first step will be a thorough dental cleaning, especially if it has been more than six months since your last visit. During this process, your dentist will remove as much plaque and tartar from your teeth and gumlines as possible to enable your gums to begin healing.
Depending on the severity of your bleeding gums, your dentist may also call for lab work to test for vitamin deficiencies that can cause the gums to bleed.
So, at what point do you call the dentist? While the more than seven days suggestion is fine to follow, it really comes down to your personal preferences. Any dentist should be more than willing to see you — for a cleaning and checkup, at least — if you tell them your gums have been bleeding when you brush. This is especially true if they continue to bleed for a long time after brushing or flossing.
The important thing to remember is that the sooner you do see your dentist, the better chance you have at reversing the condition and working to improve your dental health.
Make an Appointment at Dental Choice for Bleeding Gums Treatment and More
If your bleeding gums have reached the point where you believe it’s time to see a professional, Dental Choice is ready to help. With more than 20 years of experience prioritizing patient care, we’ll strive to make sure you can trust your dental health to our team. We’ll discuss why you may be experiencing bleeding gums, then help you develop a plan to treat the problem and prevent it from occurring again in the future.
Make an appointment at Dental Choice today to get the answers and care you deserve.