Why are my gums bleeding?
If you suffer from bleeding gums, then you may not be alone. Bleeding gums is one of the most common concerns from our patients, so much that some think it’s normal as they have been experiencing it all their lives.
It might be easy to ignore and overlook bleeding gums and think it is harmless, when in reality – if we ignore this early warning sign, we could end up losing our teeth. Healthy gums are needed to support healthy teeth and so bleeding gums is often the first sign of an unhealthy oral environment and should be tended to.
But what causes it? Bleeding gums can be due to a variety of reasons. Here are the 6 most common causes for why your gums may be bleeding:
- Gum disease or gingivitis
The number one cause for bleeding gums is gum disease, which is essentially an inflammation of your gums. This inflammation is commonly caused by the plaque and bacteria that sticks to your teeth. If we don’t brush adequately or floss for a while, plaque can build up on the uncleaned tooth structure and as the bacteria multiplies, it can cause irritation to your gums.
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease, and the most common symptoms can include bleeding gums, gum tenderness, or sensitivity, gum swelling or bad breath.
Fortunately, gingivitis is reversible. Improvements in oral hygiene and home care can help to resolve symptoms when they appear, but a professional clean to remove the harder deposits are often needed to fully revert the gums back to a healthier state.
If left untreated, gingivitis can progress into a more advanced form known as periodontal disease. At this stage, the bone surrounding the teeth can start to deteriorate. This bone loss is irreversible and can weaken the support of the teeth and eventual loss of the teeth. People with chronic periodontitis often require regular and ongoing professional dental treatment to prevent the disease from progressing.
Gum disease and periodontal disease both have systemic links to other health conditions including heart disease and diabetes.
At True Smiles Dental, your dentist or oral health therapist will always check the health of your gums by doing a periodontal screening as part of your check-up prior to your dental cleaning. This periodontal assessment is conducted using a periodontal probe which measures the pockets between your gum and your tooth as well any clinical signs of disease. This helps with determining your risk category for gum disease and is used to place you on a regular 3-, 4- or 6-month recall system accordingly. This is the time frame in which you should return for another dental cleaning to ensure your gum health is in tip-top condition.
The most commonly prescribed medications that may result in bleeding gums can include blood thinners, anti-depressants or blood pressure medications. If you have started a new medication and have since noticed bleeding gums, talk to your dentist or doctor about the new medication to see if it could be causing your bleeding gums. This can be important as your dental professional can help to put together an oral health regime which can be gentler on your gums.
Your teeth and gums can also be affected by a pregnancy, just like other areas of your body. During pregnancy, the changing hormones can cause women to be more susceptible to developing gingivitis. As discussed above, gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease and commonly causes bleeding gums. If you’re pregnant and suffering from bleeding gums, it is important to talk to a dental professional about incorporating additional steps to your dental hygiene routine to protect yourself from gum disease.
- Just started flossing/change in oral hygiene products
Not flossing enough? Surprisingly, brushing your teeth only cleans approximately about 60% of tooth surfaces. This means that about 40% of your daily plaque accumulation remains in between the teeth – which increases by the day the more we forget to floss. This plaque results in gum inflammation, which when disturbed with the floss results in bleeding.
The use of a hard or medium bristle brush can also result in irritation to our gums and can cause more damage than good. Leave those hard/medium bristle brushes for cleaning the floors and stick to a soft bristle brush to protect your gums.
- Underlying health conditions
Bleeding gums are a common symptom of type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Patients with diabetes often have a harder time fighting off infections. This can include infections in the mouth like gum disease. Because of this, gum disease in diabetic patients can easily get out of control and progress much faster than in individuals without diabetes. If you have diabetes and bleeding gums, it’s important to notify your dental professional so they can evaluate your gum health and create an oral health plan for you.
Other medical conditions which can increase your risk of gum disease include osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
- Unhealthy diet or lifestyle
Individuals with a higher intake of sugar and carbohydrates can have an increased risk of gingivitis as sugar creates the perfect conditions to encourage increased plaque accumulation. Increased plaque scores result to readily irritated and inflamed soft tissues, which can result in bleeding gums.
Studies have also shown that a deficiency in vitamin C and other minerals may lead to bleeding gums.
What can you do to stop your gums from bleeding at home?
As previously mentioned, the number one cause for bleeding gums is inadequate oral hygiene and plaque being left behind on our teeth. So going back to basics to improve your oral hygiene regime can definitely help with improving the symptoms of gingivitis at home.
Tips for brushing and flossing
- – Using a soft bristle brush, start in one quadrant of your mouth with the bristles aimed at a 45-degree angle towards the gum line.
- – Treat brushing the gum line like a massage, working in a circular motion. Avoid scrubbing as much as possible as this can run the risk of damaging the gum, causing them to recede.
- – Aim to brush for at least 2 minutes, twice daily – morning and night.
- – The most common tool to clean in between the teeth is dental floss. If this doesn’t work well for you, try flossette picks or interdental brushes!
A big reminder is to not be afraid if you see bleeding when you brush or floss. This is often a sign that there are bacteria in the area and needs to be cleaned out thoroughly. Studies have shown that the use of an electric toothbrush has been found to be more effective than a manual brush at removing plaque. To find out which electric toothbrush might be right for you, speak to the friendly team at True Smiles Dental.
Will cleaning my teeth at home be enough?
If your gums continue to bleed after brushing or flossing, it may be time to visit your dentist or oral health therapist for a thorough professional dental cleaning. Soft plaque can be controlled and removed at home, however, once it calcifies onto the tooth surface, it needs to be professionally and safely removed with our special dental instruments.
Is it normal for my gums to bleed during a dental clean appointment?
If your gums are exhibiting signs of inflammation or there is some notable plaque or tartar build up on your teeth, it can be normal to see some bleeding during your dental cleaning. Once your teeth have been professionally cleaned, your dentist or oral health therapist will run through how to clean your teeth properly at home to ensure that your gum health improves. This can include a mixture of brushing technique, interdental cleaning, specific toothpastes to use and perhaps mouthwash (as directed). Improvements in your gum health may take up to 1-2 weeks before the inflammation settles and the occasional bleeding stops.
How often should I have my teeth professionally cleaned?
For healthy, well-maintained teeth and gums, it is recommended that you visit your trusty Marrickville dentist every 6 months. If your gums need more attention, you may be told that you need to attend more frequently for professional dental cleanings. This can be every 3 or 4 months until your periodontal health is stable. During these visits the health of your gums (and teeth) will be assessed and any essential treatment or preventive options are recommended.
At True Smiles Dental, we have invested in the latest technology to ensure the most comfortable, pain-free dental cleaning services. Our EMS airflow uses a mixture of air, warm water (can be heated up to 40 degrees Celsius!) and fine powder which offers a quicker, gentler and effective teeth clean than ever before. Our ultrasonic scaler, which is used to remove hard tartar build up is also designed with a patented ‘no-pain’ technology for your comfort. To find out more, call our friendly team on (02) 7228 7272 or visit our dental clinic at 235 Marrickville Road, Marrickville NSW 2204.