There are lots of misconceptions about bleeding gums and there are some people who would stop brushing when it happens. We asked the help of one of our dental hygienists, Felicia Bjurfjall, and here are her answers to the most common questions we get from our patients about bleeding gums.
Why do gums bleed? Is it normal?
When people don't practice proper dental hygiene, bacteria in the mouth form plaque on the teeth. These bacteria may cause your gums to become inflamed, which results in red, swollen, or bleeding gums. For many people with gingivitis, this inflammation is not painful. If you catch gingivitis early, it can be reversed and healed with proper oral hygiene. But left untreated, gingivitis can worsen and ultimately lead to the patient losing teeth.
My gums bleed while I brush my teeth. Should I be concerned? What should I do?
Gums bleed because you are not able to clean their teeth properly, nor your gums in this case. Bleeding gums, known as gingivitis, are very common, and nothing to be scared off. But it is the initial phase of gum disease (known as periodontitis) therefore should not be ignored. A lot of patients would stop brushing as soon as they see bleeding, but as a matter of fact they should keep on brushing, and actually brush more thoroughly and for longer time.
How can I clean my teeth effectively?
With regards to brushing, make sure you use gentle, circular motions to clean your teeth and gums. While many people use a back-and-forth motion, this motion can irritate and damage your gums, making them more and more likely to recede.
It is also important to make sure to not brush only the teeth, but also the gums. A good indicator is to brush along the gum line, the curve where the teeth and gum meet. A lot of bacteria can be found in these areas.
Flossing is also very important, to remove the bacteria in between the teeth, that your toothbrush alone just can’t get rid of. An electric brush is a helpful tool. A lot of times patient’s gums start bleeding when they floss after not having flossed in a long time. That is because the gums are inflamed from bacteria not being removed for a longer period of time. Usually bleeding gums will go away within a week or so if good oral hygiene is maintained, brushing twice a day and flossing once a day
To make sure that your flossing technique is not causing damage to your gums, be gentle when you floss. Rather than forcing the floss between your teeth, carefully slide it up and down, following the curve of each tooth.
My child has bleeding gums, what should I do?
If a child has bleeding gums, the cause is the same. Insufficient brushing, not brushing long enough and not brushing the gums as well as the teeth. Parents should supervise and help their children brush their teeth, since a child might not be able to reach all the areas of the mouth as well as not having the correct technique.
Are there health conditions that can cause bleeding gums?
When gingivitis progresses, it develops into periodontitis - a condition in which the gums and bone that hold the teeth in place can be severely damaged. The bacteria on the teeth and gums release toxic substances that harm your gums and cause them to become infected. The infection and the inflammation that results when your body attacks the bacteria can damage your gums and even further down to your bone. If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to loosing teeth.
In some cases, bleeding gums can be caused by other reasons such as severe vitamin deficiency, hormonal changes like pregnancy or menstruation, chemotherapy, some diseases like diabetes, certain medication like blood thinners. Smoking also damages your gums and makes the gum disease progress faster.
Are there any OTC medications that I can take for bleeding gums?
Sometimes, gums may bleed if you’re brushing too hard with a toothbrush that is too hard. This can actually damaging your gums.
The best treatment is to remove the sticky soft plaque (bacteria) that causes bleeding gum by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. When dental plaque builds up, it turns into tartar, a hard substance that adheres to your teeth. Without regular teeth cleanings with your hygienist, dental tartar can become a breeding ground for even more plaque bacteria, which can creep below the gum line and lead to gum disease.
Aside from brushing and flossing, are there other things I can do to prevent bleeding gums?
Visit your hygienist. Your hygienist will remove the soft and hard deposits by performing scaling and root planing, which slow down the process of gum disease. It is very important to maintain good oral hygiene at all times.
If you suffer from an advanced form of periodontal disease, your dentist or hygienist may recommend ongoing further periodontal therapy as seeing a periodontist, a gum disease specialist. In some cases, dental surgery may be needed to control the progression of the gum disease.
What is your advice you give to patients with gum disease?
Brush and floss regularly. Get your teeth cleaned with your hygienist every 3 to 6 months, depending on the state of the gums, to prevent any disease in the future.