Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, when you eat or at other times? Bleeding gums may only be temporary or they could be a warning sign of an underlying problem, such as gum disease or another health issue.
If you have unexpected bleeding from your gums, make an appointment to see your dentist. They will examine your gums and aim to identify the cause of the bleeding so they can recommend home remedies, gum disease treatment or other solutions.
7 common reasons for bleeding gums
Gums can bleed for many reasons. Some of the most common are:
- Brushing too hard
- Gum disease (gingivitis)
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Hormone changes
- Health conditions and medications
- Poorly fitted dentures or braces
- Bleeding following a dental treatment or injury
Read more about these problems and treatment options below.
1. Brushing too hard
Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily are important for maintaining good oral hygiene, but cleaning your teeth too roughly or using the wrong type of toothbrush can irritate the gums and cause bleeding.
Brushing teeth vigorously doesn't remove more plaque and could even damage teeth enamel. To reduce bleeding and irritation:
- Brush your teeth gently in circular motions
- If you're using a toothbrush with hard or medium bristles, switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- If you have sensitive gums, look for a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth
- If your gums bleed when you floss, look for a softer floss or talk to your dentist about interdental brushes and water flossers
Bleeding from brushing or flossing is usually temporary and will stop when the gums have had a chance to heal.
2. Gum disease (gingivitis)
Gum disease is the most common reason for bleeding gums. This is the inflammation of the gums in response to bacteria. When plaque builds up on the teeth around the gum line, this can irritate of infect the gums and make them more sensitive and prone to bleeding.
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. This can usually be treated by improving your oral hygiene routine and visiting a dentist for professional cleaning and hygiene treatments. If gingivitis isn't treated, it can develop into more serious periodontitis which may lead to permanent damage and even tooth loss.
3. Vitamin deficiencies
Low levels of vitamin C and vitamin K in the bloodstream are associated with an increased risk of gum bleeding. If your bleeding gums are not an oral health issue, your doctor can check your vitamin levels to see if you have a deficiency or need to increase your intake by improving your diet or taking supplements.
Fruit and vegetables that are high in vitamin C include:
- bell peppers
- citrus fruits
Leafy greens are good dietary sources of vitamin K, including:
- mustard greens
Soybeans, canola oil and olive oil are other good sources of vitamin K.
4. Hormone changes
Hormone changes during puberty, pregnancy or menopause can increase blood flow to the gums, making gums more sensitive and prone to bleeding. Pregnant women are also at higher risk of gum disease (pregnancy gingivitis), which is a common cause of bleeding gums.
This condition is usually temporary, as long as you maintain good oral hygiene to help prevent gum disease. You should avoid touching your gums and brush and floss gently if they are sensitive and bleed easily.
5. Health conditions and medications
Besides gum disease, other health problems can also increase the risk of gums bleeding. These include bleeding disorders such as haemophilia and leukemia and infections such as herpes simplex virus.
Certain medications that thin the blood can also make gums more likely to bleed. This includes some types of aspirin, heparin and warfarin.
Talk to your doctor if you're concerned that your bleeding gums may be a symptom of a problem or to discuss changing medication.
6. Poorly fitted dentures or braces
If you wear dentures, braces or another dental or orthodontic appliance, these can sometimes cause gum bleeding if they irritate or injure the gums. This can happen if the appliance is too tight or becomes loose or dislodged. It may also be a risk if you have sensitive gums.
Your dentist will check that your dentures or braces fit properly during your regular check-ups and will make adjustments if necessary. This may involve tightening or loosening braces or relining or replacing dentures.
If you're concerned about a poorly fitting or painful oral appliance, book an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.
7. Bleeding following a dental treatment or injury
Bleeding is common after an injury to the mouth or a dental procedure such as an extraction, wisdom teeth removal or oral surgery. This is usually temporary and may be relieved by applying pressure with gauze or a clean cloth for up to 30 minutes at a time.
Don't rinse your mouth or eat or drink until the bleeding has stopped, then avoid touching the wound or smoking while your gum is healing. If bleeding doesn't stop, contact an emergency dentist or visit the emergency room if bleeding is heavy.
What are the signs of gum disease?
Gum disease is the most common reason for bleeding gums. Knowing what other common symptoms to look out for could give you an idea of whether you may have gum disease or another problem and how far your gum disease has progressed.
Stages of gum disease
The early stage of gum disease is gingivitis. You may have gingivitis if your gums are red, sore or swollen or if they bleed when you brush and floss.
If gingivitis isn't treated, it can develop into periodontitis, the advanced stage of gum disease. Signs of periodontitis can include:
- bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
- painful or sensitive teeth, especially when biting
- receding gums
- teeth feeling loose
When to see a dentist
If you recognise any of these signs, make an appointment with your dentist. They will examine your gums and recommend suitable treatments.
Gum disease is usually easy to treat in its early stages before any permanent damage is caused, but more advanced gum disease can require intensive cleaning and disinfecting of the gums, so it's important to see a professional as soon as possible.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that build up on the teeth and form plaque. Plaque can irritate or infect the gums if it builds up around the gumline and hardens into calculus or tartar.
Your immune system fights the infection by creating an inflammation response in the gums. This causes them to swell and become sensitive.
You may be at increased risk of developing gum disease if you:
- have poor oral hygiene
- have poor nutrition
- take drugs
- are often stressed
- are pregnant or going through puberty or menopause
- have certain health conditions
- are taking certain medications
- have a family history of gum disease
What are the complications of gum disease?
Having gum disease can affect your gums' ability to heal. This can increase the risk of complications following dental procedures and could make you unsuitable for some treatments, including cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening.
If gum disease isn't treated, it may eventually cause permanent damage to the gums and to the structures supporting teeth. This can lead to gums pulling back (receding) from the teeth and tooth loss.
Beyond the mouth, gum disease is an associated risk factor for a number of serious health conditions in the body, including diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis, so gum disease should be treated as soon as possible.
How is gum disease treated?
Your dentist will recommend suitable treatments if you have gum disease. These will depend on how far the disease has progressed and your individual needs.
Gingivitis can usually be treated by improving your brushing and flossing routine and having an oral hygiene appointment at the dental clinic. Your dentist or hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and apply fluoride to reduce future plaque. If plaque has built up around the roots of teeth, they can also perform a deeper clean below the gumline.
Periodontitis is more difficult to treat, but it may be managed to reduce its effects and prevent further damage and bone loss.
How to prevent bleeding gums
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to your gum health. You can lower your risk of developing gum disease and other causes of bleeding gums by:
- gently brushing your teeth and gums twice a day using fluoride toothpaste
- gently flossing between your teeth once a day
- following a balanced diet without too much sugar
- drinking plenty of water
- not smoking
- trying to avoid stress
- treating associated health conditions
- visiting your dentist for a regular check-up and clean
Talk to a dentist in Brisbane
If you're worried about your gums or teeth, make an appointment with our Brisbane dentists at Face Value Dental for a comprehensive check-up and clean and to discuss treatments.
Call us on (07) 3221 0677 to book an appointment at your local dental clinic in Brisbane CBD, Albert Street, Albany Creek, Helensvale or Toowong.
Better Health Channel. Gum disease [Online] 2019 [Accessed September 2021] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/gum-disease
Healthdirect. Bleeding gums and dental bleeding [Online] 2019 [Accessed September 2021] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/bleeding-gums-and-dental-bleeding
Healthdirect. Gum disease [Online] 2021 [Accessed September 2021] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/gum-disease