Blood coming from any part of our body is usually a signal something isn't right, and our gums are no different. Many people notice that their gums bleed when they brush or floss, even if they do both as often as recommended. While it could be a simple as brushing too hard, it could also be the sign of something more serious. But what is causing our gums to bleed and is there anything we can do to stop it from happening?
To find out, we spoke with dentists, who shared the reasons we may have sore, tender, bleeding gums as well as how to solve the problem before it gets worse.
Why do gums bleed?
According to Dr. Jon Marashi, a Los Angeles-based dentist to celebrities such as Pink, Tom Hanks and Ryan Seacrest, the leading cause of bleeding gums is simply a result of "poor oral hygiene." Unfortunately, this can quickly lead to gingivitis caused by "plaque and tartar accumulation on the teeth and around the gums" as well as other problems, like bad breath, gum recession and even bone loss and loose teeth, he tells SheKnows,
But beyond hygiene, you can also have bleeding gums from poor-fitting dental restorations, such as crowns or fillings, smoking and tobacco products or some medications for treating seizures, Marashi adds.
Along the same lines, dentist Dr. Jennifer Silver of Macleod Trail Dental tells SheKnows that our gums can bleed because they are irritated by something — often "bacteria-filled plaque." She also explains that the reason the gums bleed when we brush or floss is because gums, like the rest of our body, will bleed if they become inflamed or irritated.
How can we stop our gums from bleeding?
First and foremost, Marashi says that in order to help our gums stop bleeding, we must improve our oral hygiene — and that includes more than just brushing and flossing twice a day. In order for the brushing and flossing to be effective, he stresses that we need to use the correct technique to ensure the plaque and tartar buildup is getting removed properly from the teeth as well as keeping your diet healthy, with limited sugar and lots of vegetables.
Dr. Samuel Low, a dentist and chief dental officer of Biolase, says the proper way to brush is to not only brush the tooth, but also brush “at and below the gum line” so the bacteria can be “disrupted and removed." He adds that we should take at least two minutes each time we brush our teeth, but the average person only brushes for 32 seconds.
Many people also may see a change in their gums during menstruation or while they are pregnant. If you notice your gums bleeding more during this time, you are not alone, as the extra bleeding may be caused by hormonal changes according to Marashi. Similarly, Low says some people may get “pregnancy gingivitis,” which usually happens in the first trimester as increased hormones create more blood flow to the gums.
However, while Silver agrees hormonal changes can make your gums a bit more sensitive, she says that you really shouldn't notice a huge difference just because you are menstruating or pregnant.
The good news is that if you do suffer from bleeding gums, Silver says that it doesn't mean it's too late to improve your oral hygiene by flossing and brushing once in the morning and once at night. Silver also adds that our regular dental cleanings are able to get rid of plaque in a way brushing and flossing won't take care of, so it's important to go in for a dental cleaning once every six months.