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Home > Dental Conditions > Gum Disease > Gum Disease Symptoms & Causes > Bleeding Gums Are a Red Alert
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Bleeding Gums Are a Red Alert


Bleeding gums are your mouth's way of telling you that something is wrong. Don't fall for the popular myth that it's a normal dental condition, which happens to everyone. Though common, bleeding gums are not the norm nor are they something you can afford to ignore. Gum bleeding can indicate a small, easily correctable problem, like brushing teeth too hard or poor flossing. It can also be a warning sign of a life-threatening health condition like leukemia or diabetes. With stakes that high, it's smart to always pay close attention to your gums bleeding.

Plaque Is the Leading Cause of Bleeding Gums

Bleeding Gums - Prevent gum bleeding with good oral hygiene.

Most people experience gum bleeding at some time or another. This isn't too surprising considering WebMD estimates that, at any given time, 75 percent of U.S. adults over 35 have some form of periodontal diseaseBleeding gums are most often caused by a symptom of periodontal diseases, like gingivitis and periodontitis. These conditions are brought on by inadequate plaque removal from the teeth at the gum line.

Dental plaque is a sticky material consisting of bacteria, mucus and food material that forms on exposed parts of your teeth. When plaque is allowed to build up on your teeth due to poor brushing or infrequent dental cleanings it turns into a hard substance known as dental tartar or dental calculus. Periodontal disease-related plaque and tartar build up irritates and eventually destroys tissue. This produces a whole host of problems including gum bleeding.

Bleeding Gums: It’s Not Always Periodontal Disease

In addition to periodontal disease, dentists often see patients whose bleeding gums are caused by an abscessed tooth, ill-fitting dentures, trauma to the mouth, toothbrush abrasion, improper flossing and bacterial infection.

Several other factors, ranging from poor nutrition to blood-clotting disorders, are also known to cause bleeding gums. These include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Hemophilia
  • Hormonal changes (e.g., menstruation, pregnancy, puberty, etc.)
  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Leukemia
  • Medications (e.g., aspirin, blood thinners, oral birth control products, etc.)
  • Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency)
  • Sexually transmitted herpes virus
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Von Willebrand disease (an inherited bleeding disorder)

Clearly, gum bleeding is not always tied to poor oral hygiene. Still, it generally makes sense to start investigating the cause of your condition at your dentist. A thorough dental exam will confirm or eliminate periodontal disease as the reason for your bleeding gums. If your problem is not related to gingivitis, periodontitis or a related condition, your dentist can refer you to a doctor who can provide diagnosis and dental treatment.

A Good Cleaning Can Stop Bleeding Gums

Generally speaking, good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent or stop bleeding gumsVisiting the dentist at least twice a year is critical to maintaining your oral health. No matter how scrupulous you are about your dental hygiene, regular professional dental cleanings are the most effective way to remove plaque that's responsible for most cases of bleeding gums.

Regular dental exams will also identify other issues that may be contributing to gum bleeding. Denture wearers with appliances that cause bleeding gums will want to see their dentist as needed denture alignments.

10 Tips to Stop Bleeding Gums

Learning how to stop bleeding gums is largely a matter of common sense and good habits. Following are several methods that have helped many people get their gum bleeding under control:

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day. Regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste is an important way to stop bleeding gums. Whether you use a manual, electric or a Sonicare® toothbrush, make sure you choose a brush head with soft nylon bristles. Always brush using gentle, circular motions that massage and clean the teeth and gums. Don't use a back and forth motion as this can actually aggravate gum bleeding. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist if you have any questions about the proper way to brush.
  2. Floss every day. Flossing may be the most effective thing you can do to prevent the plaque build up that leads to gum bleeding. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for tips on proper flossing and don't be surprised if they offer other suggestions on how to stop bleeding gums. Dentists and hygienists can't resist being helpful when it comes to promoting good oral hygiene.
  3. Get a good mouthwash.  Fluoride mouthwashes are a good tool for fighting bleeding gums. Ask your dentist for a recommendation. Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol. They can dry out your mouth and actually lead to bleeding gums. Rinsing with salt water or hydrogen peroxide is another way to keep your mouth clean.
  4. Keep your tongue clean. A "coated" tongue provides the perfect environment for the bacteria that promotes bleeding gums. Cleaning your tongue is relatively easy. Simply stroke the tongue in a front-to-back motion using a tongue cleaner or a soft-bristled toothbrush. This is especially important for people who smoke or whose tongues are deeply grooved.
  5. Eat a well-balanced diet. A nutritional diet that includes plenty of vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, and B vitamins will help you maintain the health of your gums. Limit your snacking between meals, especially carbohydrates and sugars; these feed the dental plaque that causes bleeding gums. While on the topic of food, make sure to carefully wash all fresh fruits and vegetables. Bacteria contamination on unwashed produce has been linked to conditions resulting in gum bleeding.
  6. Stay well hydrated. Drinking plenty of water, especially after meals, helps keep your teeth clean and prevent the bacterial formations responsible for plaque. Fluoridated tap water may be more effective than bottled water in fighting the causes of gum bleeding.
  7. Don't smoke or chew tobacco. The use of tobacco products decreases your ability to fight gum infections and delays healing.
  8. Say "NO" to drugs. Illegal drugs, especially methamphetamines, can wreak havoc on your mouth in a variety of ways, including bleeding gums.
  9. Be smart about medications. The side effects of some prescription and OTC drugs may lead to gum bleeding. Ask your doctor if you're taking anything that may be contributing to your condition.
  10. Learn to relax. Stress raises your body's level of the hormone cortisol. This increases the likelihood of the inflammation responsible for gum bleeding.

Do Your Bleeding Gums Need Professional Help?

Fed up with your gums bleeding? You should see your dentist if you're unable to stop bleeding gums after several weeks of home treatment. Gum bleeding that's accompanied by other symptoms, including changes in your bite, persistent bad breath or loose and shifting teeth, may indicate a serious problem requiring immediate attention.

For help finding a dentist to treat your bleeding gums, search now or call us 24 hours a day at 1-866-970-0441.

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