Gums play a major role in your dental health but also in your overall health. Chronic gum inflammation has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and stroke. The biggest cause of bleeding gums is plaque buildup along the gumline that is not removed in a timely manner. As the plaque sits along the gumline it calcifies causing calculus, “tartar”, which irritates the tissues causing bleeding and harbors more bacteria and bacterial toxins. Bleeding gums most often occur with gum disease, chemotherapy treatment, use of tobacco products, change in hormones, brushing too hard, just started flossing, diet and certain medications.
The most common reason for bleeding gums is Gum Disease, which more than three-quarters of American adults have. Gum Disease is triggered by the presence of marginal plaque and bacteria that are not removed properly during daily homecare routines. It’s important to make sure you have proper brushing & flossing techniques to reduce plaque & bacteria from causing inflammation & bleeding. When brushing, make sure you brush gently along the margins to remove plaque but not scrub. It’s best to brush twice daily for two minutes with either an electric toothbrush or a soft bristle manual brush. Part of a good homecare routine is flossing daily. If you floss daily using a gentle “c- motion” you will remove bacteria below the gumline, decreasing inflammation & stop bleeding. It takes about two weeks to get into a good habit and see results from your new flossing routine.
Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment which can have many side effects in your oral cavity. A few of these side effects include; bleeding gums, dry mouth and mouth sores. I would encourage all cancer patients to keep up with their daily flossing to keep inflammation of the tissues down. I would also encourage gentle rinses and toothpastes, examples include Act Dry Mouth, Pro-Enamel toothpaste, Closys Rinse and Closys toothpaste. If you are getting a lot of mouth sores, Peroyxl is a great soothing rinse.
Tobacco use is a large problem and affects your gums and oral tissues. Its long term use effects are extremely damaging and people who use these products are much more likely to develop gum disease and oral cancer. Short term effects of tobacco use are gum sensitivity which can cause bleeding and painful mouth sores. If you use tobacco products, I encourage you to quit not only for the health of your teeth and gums, but your complete overall health.
It’s mostly women who see bleeding gums with hormone changes. Some women find they have problems during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Puberty can cause a heighten blood flow; making them red, swollen, and increase gum sensitivity, especially if a good flossing habit is not already in place. Most women do not have any trouble with bleeding gums during menstruation especially if they have a good homecare routine and have cleanings every 6 months, but there are a few women who do usually right before it starts, and stops shortly into the cycle. Pregnancy gingivitis typically starts in the 2nd or 3rd month and continues through the 8th month, this causes the gums to be sore, swollen, and bleed. Pregnancy gingivitis is of special concern because it can lead to pre-term, low birth weight babies, again most women who have a good homecare routine do not have any trouble. Menopause can cause the gums to become dry, causing soreness, and bleeding. Act dry mouth is a great rinse to help with decreasing dry mouth and soothes the tissues.
What you eat also plays a huge role in keeping your gums from bleeding. It’s important to have a well balanced diet that’s low in sugar and high in nutrients. Sugars or simple carbohydrates increase your risk for tooth and gum problems, as sugar creates an ideal environment for plaque to form. I’m not saying you can’t eat sweets but it’s important to keep them within moderation, and even brush after you eat them to keep the sugars from sticking to your teeth. Drinking lots of water, especially after eating can help wash off the food, and decreases the bacteria that causes the irritating plaque along the gumline.
Medication can also affect your gums; this is why it’s important to update them on your medical history yearly. Certain over the counter medications and prescription medication increase your risk of bleeding. Over the counter pain relievers, like aspirin and prescription blood thinners can cause thinning of the blood, causing an increase in bleeding. If you are diligent with your flossing while taking blood thinners you should not notice and increase in bleeding. It’s important to know what medications you’re taking, and all possible side effects.
All of the above concerns all start with irritated tissues from plaque along the gumline. If you can control the plaque with daily flossing, brushing & rinses then you should be able to control inflammation and bleeding. If you are working hard on your daily homecare routine, but your gums are still bleeding make sure you discuss with your dentist or hygienist to rule out any other possible serious conditions or determine if a deeper cleaning is needed.