Don’t Ignore Your Bleeding Gums

Have you noticed blood on your floss or pink in your toothpaste after spitting? Bleeding gums is the most common symptom of gum disease, a widespread oral health issue in half of adults in the US. Unfortunately, light bleeding after brushing or flossing is so prevalent that many people don’t realize it’s actually a sign of trouble.

Gum disease begins as gingivitis, a mild stage of gum disease that is reversible and responds very well to treatment. The bleeding occurs when the inflamed gum tissue is irritated by brushing, flossing, or eating. When the gum inflammation is left untreated, the gum pockets swell and begin to pull away from the teeth. These gum pockets trap bad bacteria, eventually resulting in an infection. This later stage of gum disease is called periodontitis.

Periodontitis isn’t reversible, but the infection can be treated, and permanent damage can often be mitigated with restorative or cosmetic procedures. However, it’s always in your best interest to avoid periodontitis at all costs by taking preventive gum care very seriously, especially if you’re already experiencing bleeding gums.

Here are 4 things you can start doing right now.

1. Use oral care products designed to combat gingivitis and gum disease.

Maintaining proper oral hygiene doesn’t require expensive toothpaste or the newest powered toothbrush, but if your gums are already bleeding and showing signs of gum disease, a change in oral care products can be very helpful.

As soon as you notice that your gums are bleeding or tender, switch to a toothpaste and mouthwash designed to combat gingivitis. These products will still help fight against tooth decay by reducing plaque, but will also have antiseptic properties to protect against bacteria trapped in the gums.

If you’re unsure of which products to use, give our office a call for recommendations.

2. Evaluate your diet and check with your primary care provider about supplementing with extra vitamins.

Poor nutrition has been linked to gum inflammation and periodontal disease. Rather than trying to quit a sweet tooth habit cold turkey, focus on developing a more balanced, varied diet with plenty of fresh produce, lean protein, and minimally processed foods.

Eating habits can also affect your oral health. For example, constant grazing or snacking throughout the day or sipping on soda or coffee for a prolonged period is harmful to tooth enamel and encourages plaque development around the gum pockets. When you have a meal, snack, or non-water beverage, aim to finish it within 30 minutes or less. Follow up by drinking water or even a quick floss and brushing session.

Vitamin deficiencies can also lead to vulnerable gums susceptible to bleeding. Vitamins A and C are especially crucial for healthy gum tissue, while vitamin D boosts the immune system. A daily multivitamin and probiotic is a great starting place, but additional supplementation with these vitamins can have a protective effect.

As with any dietary supplement, always check with your doctor prior to taking vitamins or minerals.

3. Develop a daily flossing habit, and be sure you’re using the right techniques.

The ADA recommends people floss at least once daily, ideally before their bedtime brushing session, but this is the minimum recommendation for adults with healthy gums. We recommend adults with bleeding gums floss twice daily until their dentist no longer sees any signs of gingivitis. Some people choose to continue flossing twice daily, often after lunch and dinner.

String floss is the most effective type of floss as it allows for the most thorough cleaning, and we encourage everyone to use this type of dental floss as long as their mobility allows. Handheld flossers and Waterpik-style systems are great alternatives if string floss isn’t suitable.

Here is an excellent refresher on proper flossing techniques. The most important thing is to ensure the string floss wraps around the sides of each tooth and you go far enough that it sits just under the gum line. Don’t floss so hard that it cuts your gums, but keep in mind that adequate pressure may cause your gums to bleed at first. Take your time and be consistent; the bleeding will go away.

4. Tell your dentist about gum bleeding during your next visit or sooner if symptoms continue or worsen.

Light bleeding from the gums isn’t typically considered an emergency, but it’s important that you mention it to your dentist during your next checkup. Gingivitis and even moderate gum disease can be present without obvious symptoms, so even if your at-home preventive care has stopped the bleeding gums, your dentist should still be informed.

That being said, you should call your dentist right away if:

  • Consistent flossing hasn’t stopped your bleeding gums.
  • Bleeding has worsened or occurs even with gentle brushing and eating.
  • Your gums change color, appear puffy and swollen, or your teeth feel loose.

These more advanced symptoms are typical of periodontitis, which requires swift treatment from a dentist. You’ll likely need several deep teeth cleanings, called scaling and root planing, to remove the infection and debris from the gum pockets, and possibly future restorative care to repair any damage.

After the inflammation and infection are under control, your dentist will encourage you to follow a much more stringent aftercare program to ensure the gum disease doesn’t relapse. In addition to following a great at-home care regimen, you may also need to have professional cleanings every two to four months with periodontal charting to measure the depths of your gum pockets.

If you need immediate help with your gums or you’d like to schedule a checkup, call our dental office in Ada, Oklahoma. You can also use our handy online booking system.