What to Know (And Do) About Bleeding Gums


2017-03-27 11:33:15

Seeing red in the sink after brushing your teeth can be an unwelcome and alarming surprise, but the good news is that bleeding gums aren't immediate cause for panic. There are a few different reasons why your gums might be bleeding and, fortunately, not all require running to the dentist and some you can even fix at home. If you're worried or curious about the state of your gums, take a read.

Why Gums Matter

Your gums, also called gingiva, are a type of mucosal tissue that form a seal around your teeth. Their main duty is to protect the more sensitive lower portions of the tooth from food debris, bacteria, and other forces that the upper parts of the tooth are subject to on a daily basis. If the gums get too weakened or damaged to do this job, sensitive parts of the tooth can get exposed and in the worst case scenario your teeth can get loose or even fall out!

Causes of Bleeding Gums

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and one that most people have a brush with (pun intended) at least once in their life. As our dental hygiene habits slide, bacteria can build up in the various grooves and crevices in your teeth. This appears as the whitish or yellowish plaque marks that can appear along the gums. As the bacteria grow and move about, they will inevitably irritate the surrounding gums. This results in inflammation as the gums swell and become tender and red and more likely to bleed under the rigors of brushing and flossing. If allowed to worsen, gingivitis can lead to the gums receding and let bacteria move into the lower portions of the tooth. Fortunately, gingivitis responds well to renewed brushing and flossing efforts and can be resolved within a few days or weeks.

Pregnancy

Your hands, feet, and ankles can swell during pregnancy, but did you know that your gums can too? Much as is the case with other parts of your body, the hormonal changes brought by pregnancy can make your gums swollen and more sensitive, resulting in bleeding when you brush. If you are experiencing this issue, consider taking a gentler approach such as switching to a soft-bristled brush to minimize irritation.

Medications

Any blood thinner medication, including aspirin, can both increase the likelihood of your gums bleeding and make it take longer for such bleeding to stop. The most direct solution—stop taking the medication—is obviously not an option here. Even the most ardent dentist would prefer you not get a blood clot. Instead, you should talk to your dentist and make sure they're aware of any medications you are currently taking. They can recommend ways to reduce the likelihood of bleeding gums without compromising your dental hygiene.

New Dental Hygiene Habits

Sudden changes or developments in your mouth care routine can cause your gums to bleed for the same reason your body hurts when you first start a workout regime. In both cases, your body is not used to the new rigors it has suddenly been subjected to and responds in kind. Renewed brushing and flossing can also clear away plaque that has been in place for some time, suddenly exposing bits of your gum to rigors they were previously 'protected' from. Other changes, like switching to a hard-bristled brush from a soft-bristled one or the new adoption of an electric toothbrush, can also cause gum bleeding for a short while. Keep up the routine and your body will quickly get used to it, however.

It's also worth noting that brushing too hard can also make your gums bleed. While the enthusiasm is appreciated, consider gentler motions.

When to See Your Dentist

Bleeding gums turn from annoying to worrisome if they are accompanied by certain other signs and symptoms. Consider speaking to your dentist if any of the following apply:

  • Your gums bleed after brushing for several weeks despite a gentle routine
  • Your gums take an unusually long time to stop bleeding
  • Your teeth become newly sensitive to hot or cold temperatures or to sweets
  • Frequent bad breath or persistent bad taste in the mouth
  • A gap is visible between the gum and the tooth
  • You notice changes in how your top and bottom teeth align

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