Have you ever brushed your teeth and noticed a pinkish or even a bright red colour when you rinse and spit? This means your gums are bleeding. Although this can happen to any of us on occasion, if it happens regularly, bleeding gums are cause for concern. Here we explain what it means when your gums bleed and why it is important to speak to your dentist right away.
Should I Worry If My Gums Bleed?
As mentioned, we can all experience a bit of bleeding now and then. This could be caused by a cut from flossing, or a bit too much pressure when you brush. If you wear dentures or oral appliances you might see blood because the appliance is too tight. However, frequent gum bleeding is a sign that something is wrong.
Although in most cases it is the first sign of gum disease which is easily treated, if the bleeding continues it can also indicate other possible health or dental problems. Therefore if you notice blood when you brush or floss, or find you taste blood often, you should speak to your dentist as soon as possible.
Common Causes Of Bleeding Gums
Improper dental care is the most likely cause of your bleeding gums. However, this is nothing to take lightly. In the early stages of gum disease, gingivitis can quickly lead to a more serious gum disease called periodontitis. Unhealthy gums can lead to painful and costly dental health issues and increase the risk for infection that can get into your bloodstream. Some of the common causes of bleeding gums include:
- Gingivitis: As mentioned, gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. Symptoms of gingivitis include puffy, tender gums, and bleeding. When you don’t brush and floss properly, and fail to book your regular dental cleanings, plaque buildup can harden and turn into tartar. This can lead to gingivitis as well as an increased risk for cavities. The plaque along the gumline can be harder to clean with brushing and flossing, which is why it is important to book your regular dental cleanings. As well, your dentist will spot the early signs of gingivitis and can offer tips to stop the gum disease from progressing and actually reverse it.
- Periodontitis: Periodontitis occurs when gingivitis advances. It infects the gums, but can also spread to your jawbone, and the supportive tissues connecting your teeth and gums. As a result, your teeth eventually become loose and can fall out. Symptoms of periodontitis include bleeding gums, tooth pain, loose teeth, pain while chewing and increasing tooth sensitivity. As well, your entire body can suffer from an inflammatory reaction, as the infection progresses. If you allow periodontitis to get to this stage it is even more urgent for you to see your dentist.
- Vitamin C or K Deficiency: If your dentist determines that your oral health regime is not to blame, it could be your bleeding gums are caused by Vitamin C or Vitamin K deficiencies. In this case, your dentist might recommend you see your doctor to check your blood levels. If your diet is low in healthy foods such as fruits, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, and other foods rich in Vitamin C, there is a higher chance you could suffer from bleeding gums related to Vitamin C deficiency. As well, green leafy vegetables help provide enough Vitamin K which is important for proper blood clotting.
- Poorly Fitting Dentures or Dental Appliances: If you wear dentures or other types of dental or oral appliances, a poor fit can lead to bleeding gums. Tight appliances should be corrected as soon as possible as they can lead to bleeding as well as infections if the appliance is chafing your gums or soft tissue.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, hormonal changes can lead to gum sensitivity and bleeding.
- Smoking: Smoking increases the risk for gum disease.
When you visit your dentist, you should mention all health conditions and medications as in some cases these factors can increase the risk for bleeding gums.
How Are Bleeding Gums Treated?
Bleeding gum treatment depends on the cause. However, generally speaking, the most common treatments for bleeding gums include:
- Improved Oral Care: Proper brushing and flossing techniques help stimulate your gums and remove plaque buildup. Your dentist will offer tips to help improve your oral care regime which will quickly produce results if you are in the early stages of gingivitis. If you suffer from tooth sensitivity your dentist can also recommend a special toothpaste to reduce discomfort.
- Quit Smoking: If you smoke, you can reduce the risk for gum disease by quitting.
- Professional Dental Cleaning: If your dentist finds you have harmful plaque and tartar buildup, a professional cleaning beyond your usual twice-annual cleanings might be required. This will help prevent bleeding gums and reverse the progression of gum disease.
- Improved Diet: As mentioned, Vitamin C and K deficiencies can cause gum bleeding. You can correct these insufficiencies by enjoying a more well-balanced diet, with healthier snacks and an increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Periodontal Scaling and Root Planing: In advanced cases of gum disease, your dentist will recommend scaling and root planing. Scaling removes the hardened tartar along the gumline reaching far down to ensure everything is clean. From there they can proceed with root planing, a special treatment that smooths the tooth roots so your gums can reattach to your teeth.
- Laser Gum Treatment: When your gum disease is severe, your dentist might recommend Laser Gum Treatment. This treatment removes severely infected tissue with a laser allowing the dentist or dental hygienist to reach the deep tartar buildup affecting your tooth roots.
The good news is, you can prevent the need for treatment by sticking to a healthy oral care regime. With proper brushing and flossing techniques, in hand with regular dental cleanings to remove plaque or hardened tartar, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy and avoid bleeding gums.