Why Are My Gums Bleeding?
If you notice spots of blood when you clean your teeth, the most likely culprit is gum inflammation (gingivitis). Left untreated, this infection will invariably escalate to serious, painful gum disease (periodontitis) that may result in tooth loss.
Periodontitis attacks the soft tissue and bones supporting the teeth and jaw. Studies have linked periodontitis with cardiovascular issues such as stroke and heart attack. Other research has found connections with lung disease. Gingivitis is caused by a build-up of bacteria-laden plaque and tartar on the surface of teeth near the gum line. If the condition is caught early, minimally invasive procedures such as deep cleaning or scaling and root planing will be sufficient to address the issue.
However, with cases of advanced periodontitis, surgical options may be the only answer. These include bone or soft tissue grafts and pocket reduction (flap surgery) to fold back gum tissue and get rid of the bacteria beneath.
The Main Cause of Bleeding Gums
The most common cause of bleeding gums and gingivitis is inadequate oral hygiene – insufficient brushing and flossing. This can quickly result in an accumulation of plaque and tartar on the gum line and teeth. So, make sure you brush your teeth in the morning and evening, and floss at least once a day.
An electric toothbrush is particularly effective because the rotation of the head stimulates the gums to promote blood flow, which helps to keep infection at bay. You might also find that a water pick or floss pick is easier to use than conventional string floss. An antibacterial mouthwash after brushing and flossing will boost your at-home oral health program. Ironically, too much brushing and flossing – or using the wrong techniques – can also cause your gums to bleed. Ask your prosthodontist for advice about the right way to clean your teeth.
Other Causes of Bleeding Gums
Other causes of bleeding gums are not directly connected to poor oral hygiene. Smoking can cause stained, swollen and bleeding gums when toxins in cigarettes weaken the gum tissue, making it easier for bacteria to spread. If you smoke and want to kick the habit to improve your oral hygiene and overall health, ask your prosthodontist about smoking cessation programs.
Many women experience pregnancy gingivitis, caused by hormonal changes that alter the body’s response to bacteria. A dental check-up and regular brushing and flossing will help to minimise the problem, and the bleeding gums should disappear after pregnancy. Another cause of bleeding gums is blood-thinning medication such as warfarin, which lessens the blood’s effectiveness in clotting. If you think a prescription anti-coagulant might be the reason your gums are bleeding, consult your doctor or prosthodontist.
Gum problems tends to run in the family. If you are not sure about your family dental history, DNA testing can determine strains of gum disease.
Watch What You Eat!
What you eat also plays a big part in oral health, and vitamin deficiencies can result in bleeding gums. Vegetables and foods high in vitamin C are good, but acids, sugars and starches will create a breeding ground for harmful microbes. Crunchy vegetables are particularly beneficial because they dislodge germs and particles of food from between your teeth.
Other foods that will help to prevent bleeding gums include dairy products like cheese and yogurt, leafy greens such as kale and spinach, and onions, which fight off harmful bacteria.
Tip: Salads packed with protein-rich vegetables can do wonders for your oral health and general well-being.
Signs of Gum Problems Besides Bleeding
Even if your gums aren’t bleeding, gingivitis may still be setting in without you realizing in mild cases, there may be no pain or noticeable symptoms.
Besides bleeding gums, other signs of gingivitis include:
- Bright red or purple gums.
- Tender gums.
- Swollen gums.
- Bad breath.
- Receding gums.
- Soft gums.
If gingivitis is diagnosed early, it can be reversed with prompt treatment by a dental professional, with follow-up procedures at home by the patient. Professional treatment typically entails the removal of plaque and tartar by deep cleaning and scaling. This can be uncomfortable if tartar build-up is extensive, or the gums are sensitive.
Oral healthcare at home involves:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day, preferably with an electric brush.
- Flossing at least once a day.
- Using a mouthwash regularly.
If untreated, gum infection can spread to other oral tissue, bones and teeth. This may lead to complications such as:
- An abscess in the jawbone.
- Loss of bone and teeth.
- Trench mouth, when bacterial infection results in ulceration of the gums.
Getting Expert Help
More than half the U.S. adult population suffer from gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) says gum disease mainly affects people once they reach their 30s or 40s, and men are more susceptible. Teens rarely develop periodontitis but can still get gingivitis. If you’ve noticed your gums are bleeding, see your prosthodontist or oral hygienist as soon as possible to find out what’s causing the problem, even if your gums aren’t painful. Bear in mind that the early stages of gum infection can be easy for you to overlook.
The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) recommends an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) for all adults. With a proper oral hygiene routine at home, plus deep cleaning by a dental professional, a minor gum infection can be cleared up before it takes a strong hold and begins to spread to other parts of your body such as the heart, lungs and brain.
A prosthodontist with a strong focus on preventive dentistry like Pacific Northwest Prosthodontics will be able to give you further advice on protecting yourself against gum disease. We can also give you a definitive answer to the question: Why are my gums bleeding? Contact us today!