- Healthy gums don’t usually bleed
- The most common cause of bleeding gums is gum disease
- Gum disease can be prevented
- Good oral hygiene at home is the best way to prevent gum disease
- It’s estimated that most adults have some form of gum disease
Bleeding gums are quite common, but they are not ‘normal’ – healthy gums won’t usually bleed unless there is trauma. Most often, bleeding gums are caused by build-up of plaque or tartar (hardened plaque). This irritates the gums and cause gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease. Here’s how you can prevent and treat bleeding gums.
Are Bleeding Gums Normal?
Looking after your mouth health is an important part of looking after your overall body health. Just because bleeding gums are common, it doesn’t mean they’re ok. There are no circumstances when bleeding gums are ‘normal’. They are usually a sign that something is wrong and it’s time to take action to fix it.
Many people experience gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, at some point. The UK National Health Service estimates up to 90% of adults have it. If you have gingivitis, your gums may be red, swollen and bleed more easily. Gingivitis can be treated and is reversible.
If untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease, which can lead to bone and tooth loss. Periodontitis can be managed, but not cured. It is best prevented.
There’s a well-established link between gum diseases and a whole list of systemic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes and even low birthweight babies. Infection in the gums can easily spread to other parts of the body. This is why doctors advise patients to treat gum disease before surgery – to lower any risks.
Why do gums bleed?
The most common cause of bleeding gums is plaque and tartar. If not removed, plaque, a bacteria in the mouth, builds up on the teeth. It eventually forms tartar. Tartar is a hard, yellowish substance that can only safely be removed by a dental professional, not with usual brushing and flossing.
Plaque and tartar on the teeth can irritate gum tissue. This causes inflammation and eventually gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. Brushing and cleaning between the teeth correctly are the best forms of plaque control. By manually disrupting the plaque you prevent plaque and tartar build-up.
Some people think their gums bleed because they are brushing or flossing too hard. It’s more likely to be gum disease caused by not brushing or flossing correctly. If you have gum disease, good oral care is more important than ever!
Causes of bleeding gums
- Poor oral hygiene
- Plaque and tartar build-up
- Gum disease
- Brushing too hard or using a very hard worn out brush
- Incorrect flossing
- Trauma to the gums (e.g. poorly-fitting dentures, orthodontics, oral surgery, tooth extractions)
- Vitamin deficiency
- Smoking – smokers are 2 x more likely to get gum disease
Does flossing make your gums bleed?
If you’re new tp flossing, or if you only clean between the teeth occasionally, your gums may bleed a little at first. Plaque may have built up between the teeth, irritating the gums and potentially causing infection. The body’s response will be to send more blood to the infected area. This is why the gums may appear red, swollen or bleed.
If your gums bleed when you start to floss, carry on for a few days. Removing the plaque may be enough to clear up the infection and end the bleeding. If your gums continue to bleed after 2 to 3 days we recommend you see a dental professional for a professional clean which will remove plaque AND tartar.
If you floss too hard or use the wrong tool, you could damage the gum and cause bleeding. Learn how to ‘floss like a boss’ from these short videos. Or try using interdental brushes or other tools, like GUM Soft-Picks, which many people find easier to use than floss.
Health conditions associated with bleeding gums
Bleeding gums are most commonly caused by inadequate oral care and gum diseases, including gingivitis and periodontitis. In rarer case, bleeding gums may be associated with the following health conditions:
- Pregnancy – hormonal changes during pregnancy can make the gums more sensitive
- Immune issues – dental problems, including bleeding gums, are more common in people with compromised immune systems or HIV
- Diabetes – people with diabetes are at higher risk of gum disease and bleeding gums
- Blood disorders including leukaemia and haemophilia as well as people who take blood-thinning medication like aspirin or warfarin.
How to prevent bleeding gums
- Gum disease is the most common cause of bleeding gums
- Effective plaque control will help prevent gum disease
- Brushing is the most effective method to remove plaque from the teeth
- Floss and interdental brushes remove plaque between the teeth and below the gum line
- Brushing for 2 minutes will remove more plaque than brushing for 45 seconds
An effective daily oral care routine and having a professional clean, at least twice a year, is the best way to prevent bleeding gums.
Ask your dental professional to advise you on the best home oral care routine and tools if you’re not sure.
A healthy lifestyle with adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition will help maintain a healthy immune system and reduce the risk of diseases like gum disease.
If you are a smoker, give it up to protect your gum health.
1) Have your teeth cleaned professionally by a dentist or oral hygienist, at least twice a year. A dental professional can safely remove tartar (hardened, calcified plaque) which you cannot remove with brushing and flossing at home. They can assess your usual oral care routine and advise you on how to improve it if necessary.
2) Follow an effective oral care routine EVERY DAY
- Brush correctly for at least 2 minutes twice a day, using a soft-bristled brush with a small head
- Clean in-between the teeth every day with floss, an interdental brush or another interproximal tool
- Rinse the mouth with salt-water or an alcohol-free mouthwash after eating
How to treat bleeding gums
If you have bleeding gums, here are 4 ways to treat them:
- Apply pressure – just as you would with any other kind of bleeding – you can apply pressure to the gum, pressing on gauze or tissue, to stop bleeding.
- Rinse the mouth with saltwater or an alcohol-free mouth rinse. Look for a rinse with CPC and chlorhexidine, which has well-established antiseptic properties.
- Keep your teeth and gums clean with an effective oral hygiene routine. You may feel like not brushing or flossing when your gums bleed, but good oral hygiene is more important than ever, when you have gum disease.
- See a dental professional for a professional clean to remove plaque and tartar. Plaque and tartar build-up irritates the gums.
You should see a dental professional with bleeding gums when:
- If your gums bleed for more than 2 to 3 days
- If you experience gum sensitivity
- After oral surgery or a tooth extraction if the gum continues to bleed for more than 2 to 3 days
- Children’s teeth should never bleed unless there’s been some kind of trauma to the gum
To prevent the plaque and tartar build-up that causes gum disease, it’s recommended to have a scheduled clean with a dental professional at least every 6 months. More regularly if an increased risk of gum problems e.g. people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing gum disease.
Can toothpaste or mouthwash stop bleeding gums?
The most effective way to prevent bleeding gums is an effective daily oral hygiene routine that manually disrupts plaque on the teeth and gums before it can cause irritation and disease.
The correct brushing technique and time taken – ideally 2 minutes twice a day – is more important than the toothpaste used.
If there is plaque or tartar build-up on the teeth and under the gum line, it’s not possible to rinse it off with mouthwash. Even an anti-bacterial, therapeutic mouthwash will be unable to penetrate the biofilm coating the teeth, once the plaque has matured and bonded firmly to the teeth.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS FOR BLEEDING GUMS
- A power toothbrush toothbrush such as Philips Sonicare or Sunstar GUM ActiVital Sonic
- Floss or any quality interdental tool that suits your mouth for every day cleaning in-between
- Alcohol-free mouthwash such as Dentyl or GUM
- Salt-based products e.g. Thryve mouth salts
- Natural oral care products like Olgani Naturals