You noticed a little pink in the sink after brushing your teeth. Or maybe you noticed blood in your mouth after flossing. What caused your bleeding gums? And is it serious? Gums bleed for many reasons. Some reasons, like gum disease, are serious and warrant a call to your dentist sooner rather than later. Other causes for bleeding gums are less serious. In some cases, you can stop bleeding gums with simple changes to your daily brushing and flossing routine.
Occasional bleeding around individual teeth is often an indication that you should be cleaning your teeth better. On no account should you stop brushing to prevent bleeding as a gum infection will only get worse. The plaque must be removed, otherwise the gums will not heal – and that is only possible with a toothbrush and other oral hygiene cleaning aids.
Bleeding can even be a sign of healing: for example, when using interdental brushes for the first time to clean between teeth, you will perhaps experience a small amount of bleeding. This indicates inflammation, and bleeding should not reoccur after one week: by cleaning between the teeth every day, the inflammation should have subsided and the risk of periodontal disease averted. If not then you should really seek advice from a dental professional.
10 Causes of Bleeding Gums
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. Symptoms include tender and swollen gums, and in some cases bleeding gums during brushing and floss.
Gingivitis happens when plaque along your gum line isn’t properly removed. This sticky plaque breeds all sorts of nasty bacteria that infect the gums, causing bleeding and sensitivity. At this early stage, gingivitis can be stopped and reversed before it turns to more serious gum disease.
Prevent or stop bleeding gums caused by gingivitis with proper oral care. Brush and floss regularly and stay on top of your routine dental check-ups.
Another possible cause of bleeding gums is blood thinning medication. Blood thinning medications decrease the blood’s ability to clot, leading to easier bleeding, including at the gumline. Every time you visit your dentist, let her know about any new medications. This helps the dentist identify the cause of bleeding gums and other oral problems.
Your dentist might recommend a different oral care routine to help minimize or stop gum bleeding caused by medication.
New Flossing Routine
If your gums bleed after flossing, when they’ve never bled before, the flossing itself could be the cause. If you took a few days off from flossing or increased the rate per week at which you floss, you might notice minor gum bleeding. This gum bleeding should stop on its own after a couple of flossing sessions. If your gums bleed frequently, or every time you floss, visit your dentist.
A new type of toothbrush can also cause gum bleeding. If you switch from soft bristles to hard bristles, bleeding is sometimes your gums’ way of telling you to take it down a notch. Most dentists recommend a soft bristled toothbrush, specifically because it is easier on gums. So, if your gums bleed from a hard-bristled toothbrush, heed the warning. After switching back to soft bristles, bleeding along the gumline should stop within a few brushing sessions.
Yep, it’s a thing. Increased hormones during pregnancy cause increased blood flow to your gums, making them extra sensitive to plaque and bacteria. This in turn often leads to tender gums and gum bleeding during brushing. Pregnancy gingivitis, and any associated gum bleeding, usually stops shortly after pregnancy.
Poor Oral Hygiene Habits
You might be surprised to learn that even a temporary lapse in otherwise stellar oral hygiene sometimes causes bleeding gums. Research shows healthy gums can become bleeding and diseased gums with just one day off proper oral care. Yikes!
Prevent or stop bleeding gums with daily hygiene habits. Brush for two minutes, twice a day and floss daily to keep plaque at bay and prevent swollen, bleeding gums.
Some ingredients in processed foods irritate gums and cause minor gum bleeding. Opt for healthier alternatives instead. Fruits and veggies, along with calcium, vitamins C and D, and magnesium are critical components of oral health. Make sure you get your daily recommended allowances of these nutrients
Living in a constant state of agitation and anxiety compromises your immune system, making it harder to ward off any number of issues, including bleeding gums and gum disease. Stress also causes inflammation in the blood vessels. This breaks down soft tissues in your mouth, further slowing the healing process for bleeding gums. Try reducing your stress levels whenever possible.
If your teeth aren’t properly aligned you may develop “bite disease,” which is yet another possible cause of bleeding gums. If your teeth are misaligned, the wrong type of pressure is applied to the wrong places when you bite down or grind your teeth.
These destructive forces affect your teeth, as well as the supporting tissue and bone. If you apply repeated pressure in one spot, the gums recede and the bone deteriorates, creating a prime spot for gum disease and bleeding gums. Talk to your dentist about solutions for an unbalanced bite.
Smoking or Vaping
It’s true. Both smoking and vaping increase your risk for oral health problems, including sensitive, diseased, and bleeding gums. Once gum bleeding starts, dangerous bacteria trapped between the teeth and the gumline can get into the bloodstream, causing further complications.
If you are worried about how smoking or vaping affects your oral health, talk to your dentist or doctor about alternatives or programs to help you quit.
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
How to stop gums from bleeding
In most cases, people can treat minor gum bleeding at home. Good oral hygiene and natural remedies can treat and prevent gum bleeding.
Gum bleeding is common and is typically not serious. A person may notice some blood after brushing their teeth or flossing, which can irritate sensitive gums.
The most common reason a person’s gums bleed is because of plaque or tartar buildup. These substances allow bacteria to grow along the gum line. Good oral hygiene can prevent sensitivity and bleeding.
Practicing good oral hygiene can help treat bleeding gums. As with bleeding anywhere else on the body, people can help stop the bleeding by immediately holding a clean, damp gauze against the affected area.
Gently press the gauze in place until the blood has stopped flowing.
People with a weakened immune system or another medical condition may find that their gums take a long time to stop bleeding. Speak to a dentist about the best way to stop the blood flow.
Hold a cool compress, a small ice pack, or an ice cube against swollen, bleeding gums to help soothe them.
Ice packs are especially helpful to soothe minor mouth injuries that cause swelling, such as cuts and scrapes. They can also help reduce pain and swelling caused by gingivitis.
Use ice for 10 minutes at a time and take 10-minute breaks. If the bleeding does not stop, some people may consider calling a doctor.
Antibacterial mouthwashes can both treat and prevent bleeding gums. They kill bacteria and reduce inflammation to soothe sore, swollen, and bleeding gums.
Mouthwash can also treat and prevent gingivitis, which is a common cause of bleeding gums.
Common active ingredients in mouthwashes include:
- hydrogen peroxide
Keep mouthwash on hand to treat bleeding gums when they occur. People can buy mouthwash from drug stores or choose between brands online.
Using a warm salt rinse
Rinsing the mouth with salt water can help reduce bacteria and speed up healing times. According to the researches, a person can make an oral salt rinse by adding half a teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm water.
Swish the salt rinse around the mouth to cleanse the area and then spit the liquid out. Repeat this several times a day, or according to instructions from your dentist.
Applying a turmeric paste
Scientific evidence does not support turmeric paste as a treatment for bleeding gums. Turmeric has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. Applying a turmeric paste to the gums may improve the symptoms of gingivitis and bleeding gums.
However, there is currently no reliable scientific evidence that states turmeric has any effect on gum disease or bleeding gums.
One small-scale study compared the effects of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, with the effects of chlorhexidine in oral hygiene. The researchers found similar anti-inflammatory effects in people who used these gels for 10 minutes a day twice a day.
Turmeric is yellow, but it should not stain a person’s teeth as long as they rinse well after using it. Some people use turmeric as a tooth whitening agent, especially when combined with baking soda. However, there is no evidence for this remedy’s effectiveness.
Using the right toothbrush
If a person has sensitive gums, they can opt for a toothbrush labeled as extra soft or sensitive. Firm or medium toothbrushes are too rough on the gums.
The dentists recommend that people use a toothbrush with soft bristles for 2 minutes twice a day. They say that both manual and electric toothbrushes are effective.
Replace toothbrushes every 3 to 4 months, or sooner if the bristles look frayed.
Flossing every day, but be gentle
Starting a new flossing habit can cause bleeding at first. The gums may not be used to the stimulation. However, after a few days of consistent flossing, the bleeding should stop.
Regular flossing improves overall gum health and should reduce gum bleeding over time.
Smoking is a major cause of gum disease. Smoking harms the body’s immune system, meaning the body is less able to fight off the bacteria that naturally stick to the gums.
Once the gums are damaged, smoking makes it harder for the body to heal its tissues. Quitting smoking benefits the whole body, and greatly increases the health of a person’s mouth and gums. People often notice improvements in their oral health quickly after stopping smoking.
Trying oil pulling
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic medicine practice. It involves swishing a specific oil in the mouth for up to 20 minutes, then spitting it out. Proponents claim that it can whiten teeth and improve oral health.
Though some people may find that oil pulling helps them, the dentists do not recommend it for dental hygiene because there is a lack of scientific evidence into its effectiveness. Experts suggest that oil pulling cannot replace regular brushing and flossing.
Some limited, small-scale research suggests that oil pulling is more effective than a placebo at controlling plaque levels in the mouth. The participants in the study rinsed their mouths with coconut oil for 10 minutes each day for a week.
The theory is that oil pulling draws out the bacteria that live in the mouth while spitting the oil out removes the bacteria from the mouth. Some people use oils with antibacterial properties, such as coconut oil.
Avoiding processed and sugary foods
Eating starchy, processed foods too frequently may cause gingivitis and bleeding gums.
Starchy foods can stick to teeth and gums and break down into sugar. This action can lead to inflammation of the gums, bleeding, and an increase in decay.
Starchy, processed foods include refined bread, cakes, cookies, and potato chips.
Eating crunchy vegetables
Crunchy vegetables, such as celery and carrots, can help keep teeth clean between meals.
Their crunchy quality can help remove food residue from the teeth. Also, they contain low amounts of sugar and carbs, so they do not promote tooth decay or gum problems.
Eating more leafy greens
Kale and leafy greens are rich in essential nutrients. Leafy greens, such as kale, lettuce, and spinach, are excellent sources of various nutrients, including Vitamin K.
A vitamin K deficiency can affect the amount of time it takes for blood to clot, so people low in vitamin K may notice more bleeding than usual.
People who are prone to blood clots should ask a doctor about how much vitamin K they need in their diet.
Brush with Anti-Gingivitis Toothpaste
If you struggle with bleeding gums, you may want to consider a toothpaste like that can neutralize the plaque found around the gum line. For sensitivity, try brushing with Sensitivity toothpaste, it targets the root cause of the issue for fast relief and clinically proven healthier gums.
See a Dentist Regularly
Harmful plaque bacteria can even lead to issues beyond gingivitis like weakened tooth enamel. The cleaning performed twice a year at your dentist’s office will remove plaque and tartar that can’t be removed at home. This will help prevent bleeding gums and keep your mouth healthy. You should visit your dentist for a professional cleaning and dental exam at least twice in a year. This can help prevent early gum disease from progressing into more serious gum disease.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
The dentists recommend eating a balanced diet and avoiding between-meal snacking. Also, reducing stress from your life can help prevent gum disease.
Long-term treatment and prevention
The best way to avoid bleeding gums is to adopt a healthful lifestyle that prevents the diseases that cause bleeding gums.
People can often avoid and prevent bleeding gums and other gum problems by:
- Practicing good oral health care, including brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.
- Replacing toothbrushes every 3 to 4 months.
- Seeing a dentist regularly.
- Booking regular hygienist appointments for professional cleaning and tartar removal.
- Seeing a doctor regularly to check for health problems that can contribute to gum problems, such as diabetes.
- Avoiding smoking or working with a doctor to find ways to quit smoking.
- Eating a healthful diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting processed foods and foods with added sugars.