Ask the Dentist: Why do my gums bleed?
You were brushing your teeth and your gums started bleeding for no reason. Is it really for no reason? Should you see a dentist straight away? Bleeding gums are a very common problem and research shows that it affects up to 1 in 5 Australians. Bleeding gums can affect people of all ages from young babies right through to the elderly. It can be due to simple plaque build up, or pregnancy, or medications and it can be as serious as late stage gum disease (periodontitis). According to a study in 2009 - 19.7 per cent of Australian adults had a prevalence of gingivitis. There was little difference in the prevalence across different age groups, with the range being from 19.1 per cent among people in the youngest generation (15 to 34 year olds) to 23.7 per cent in the oldest (75+ year olds). In this article, you will find out why it occurs and what can be done to prevent it.
Why do my gums bleed easily?
More often than not, it’s because there is plaque build up along your gums. The plaque attracts the germs, the body doesn’t like the germs so it sends more blood supply to where the plaque is to fight the germs off. When you brush the plaque off, you reduce the germs, and in doing so, reduce the bleeding because there is no longer a threat from the plaque and germs to the body.
What causes bleeding gums?
First of all , unless you’re using a super hard and abrasive toothbrush, it’s very unlikely that your bleeding gums are because you’re brushing or flossing too hard. It’s a lot more likely that you’re just not brushing or flossing well enough. Read our blogs on How to Floss and How to Brush
Gingivitis: The most common reason is because we aren’t brushing or flossing well enough leading to gingivitis. Gingivitis or inflammation of the gums is the first stage of gum disease. Plaque (leftover particles of food) builds up on your teeth and at the gumline. When it is not removed by brushing and flossing it can infect your gums and lead to the symptoms of gingivitis. The plaque attracts germs and bacteria. The body doesn’t like the bacteria so it will send more blood supply to those areas with plaque and bacteria to fight the germs. When gingivitis occurs, your gums may become swollen, tender and sometimes bleed during brushing. This early stage of the disease responds well to good brushing and flossing habits and regular dental checkups.
Medications: The American Dental Association (ADA) lists blood thinning medications (e.g. warfarin) as one of the possible causes of bleeding gums. These medications decrease your blood's ability to clot, which can lead to easier bleeding. Whenever you visit your dentist or health professional, you should let them know about any medications you may be taking.
New Flossing Habit: For your new year’s resolution you decide to turn a new leaf and floss your teeth regularly. Or you may finally decide to listen to your dentist’s advice to floss. YAY! But you notice bleeding everywhere. Stay Calm and Keep Flossing. If you haven't flossed in a few days, there is going to be a build up of plaque in the gumline of the gaps between your teeth. The bleeding is occurring because you’re removing the plaque and releasing the blood. Continue to floss for a few more days and you’ll keep the gums healthier and cleaner, then you see less and less bleeding. It should clear up within a week. Read our article “Tips on How to floss your teeth”
Pregnancy Gingivitis: Stay Calm and Keep brushing. Some pregnant women experience swollen gums and lots of bleeding during brushing. Do not panic! During pregnancy, there are hormonal changes in the body and this affects the body’s response to the bacteria that causes gingivitis and gum disease. Symptoms generally clear up after pregnancy or when the hormonal balances from pregnancy go back to normal. A dental checkup and regular brushing and flossing can help to prevent gum problems from becoming worse
How do I stop my gums from bleeding? What treatment is there?
Back to basics. Brush better and floss better - How to brush better?
You should clean your teeth systematically, starting at the back of your mouth with the toothbrush bristle at the gum line on a 45° angle, brushing gently in a circular motion.
Treat brushing the gum line like a massage, don't scrub it like a pot or pan. If you scrub too hard from side to side, you can run the risk of causing your gums to recede, as well as damaging the tooth enamel.
As you brush along the gums, you want to gently dislodge and brush off the plaque that get trapped in the gum line
You should take care to brush carefully along the inner, outer and chewing surfaces, making sure you tip the toothbrush so you can reach the inner front areas of the teeth, which are often missed.
When you have finished brushing, try to spit out the toothpaste and don’t rinse with water. Leaving some toothpaste on your teeth is a really great way to give your teeth some extra ongoing protection.
2. Floss Better: How do I floss better?
Tip 1. Wind approximately 30-45 cm of floss around your middle fingers and grip it tightly between your thumbs and index fingers.
Tip 2. Keeping the thumb and forefingers close together, gently guide the floss between the teeth, taking care not to cut or damage your gums with abrupt movement.
Tip 3. You should use a gentle up-and-down motion that goes down one side of the tooth, just under the little collar of gum and then back up the other side (think of it as an on-the-side “c”)
If sticking your fingers into your mouth with a cord of thin filaments strung between them isn’t your idea of fun, then consider using either a less invasive floss threader (a nylon loop through which you thread the floss) or floss pick (the floss is held taut between two prongs on a handle) to do the job.
3. See a Dentist
If you’ve been brushing and flossing better and still notice bleeding - please see your dentist. He or she will be able to provide you with an examination and diagnosis as to what exactly has been causing your bleeding gums and Visiting your dentist every 6 months is an essential part of looking after your oral health. Regular maintenance avoids the major breakdown.
4. Can I use mouth rinse?
I would advise you not to use it if you’re concerned about your bleeding gums. Mouthrinse or mouth wash is not an essential part of your oral hygiene habits. If you brush well and floss well, mouth rinse will simply just give you a fresh breath. It can help kill bacteria in your mouth, but if you don’t get rid of the plaque and/or tartar build up along your gumlines, the bacteria will come back straight away and cause the bleeding again.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog by Dr Kenneth Chan from Capstone Dental. Please share it with your family and friends. We firmly believe in educating our patients to help them understand how to achieve good oral health. Are you looking for modern and gentle dentist who will look after you and your family? Then welcome to Capstone Dental - we are within minutes from Toongabbie, Prospect, Blacktown, Lalor Park, Baulkham Hills, Girraween, Kings Langley, Bella Vista