What causes bleeding gums? 17 possible conditions

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What Are Bleeding Gums?

Bleeding gums are most often a sign of gum disease, but can also point to a number of other health problems.

Occasional bleeding of the gums can be the result of brushing your teeth too vigorously or wearing dentures that do not fit correctly. Frequent episodes of gum bleeding, however, can indicate more serious conditions, such as:

  • periodontitis (an advanced form of gum disease)
  • leukemia (cancer of the blood)
  • vitamin deficiency

Dental Conditions That Can Cause Bleeding Gums

Dental care issues are the primary cause of bleeding gums. Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis make your gums sensitive and more prone to bleeding. Most people develop gingivitis when plaque remains too long on the gum line.

Plaque refers to the debris and bacteria that sticks to your teeth. Brushing your teeth removes plaque and can prevent you from developing dental caries, also called cavities. Plaque may stay on your gum line, however, if you do not brush and floss properly. The accumulation of plaque near your gums can cause gingivitis.

Symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • puffy gums
  • soreness in the mouth and around the gums
  • bleeding gums

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), periodontal disease, or periodontitis, can occur when gingivitis continues to an advanced stage. Periodontal disease is the infection of the gums, jawbone, and supportive tissues that connect your teeth and gums (ADA, 2012). Periodontitis can cause your teeth to become loose or fall out.

Denture wearers may also experience bleeding of the gums from time to time. This is more likely when the dentures are too small or fit too tightly. If dentures or other oral appliances are causing your gums to bleed, consult your dentist or orthodontist. You may need to take new impressions to create a better-fitting mouthpiece.

Vitamin Deficiencies

Deficiencies of vitamins C and K can also cause gums to bleed easily. However, vitamin deficiencies are not often seen in people who live in developed countries, according to the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI, 2012). This is because healthy children and adults living in developed areas of the world have access to vitamins C and K through food and supplements. Ask your doctor to check your levels of vitamins C and K if you encounter bleeding gums that are not caused by improper dental care. Follow a diet that contains both of these nutrients to ensure that you are getting the vitamins you need to stay healthy.

Foods rich in vitamin C include:

  • citrus fruits and juices
  • broccoli
  • strawberries
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • bell peppers

Foods rich in vitamin K include:

  • watercress
  • kale
  • spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • lettuce
  • soybeans
  • canola oil
  • olive oil

Other Causes of Bleeding Gums

Pregnancy is a common cause of gum bleeding among women. The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can cause the gums to become more sensitive.

Bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia and leukemia, can also increase your chance of having bleeding gums. Your gums might also bleed more often if you take blood-thinning medications. Drugs in this class include warfarin, aspirin, and heparin.

Management of Bleeding Gums

Good dental hygiene is the first step to managing bleeding gums. Visit your dentist twice yearly for a professional cleaning. Your dentist will let you know if you have gingivitis and teach you how to brush your teeth properly. Proper brushing and flossing can eliminate plaque from your gum line, reducing your risk of developing periodontal disease.

Your dentist may also instruct you to use an antiseptic mouthwash to minimize the plaque that forms in your mouth. A rinse of warm salt water can help soothe swollen gums that bleed easily.

Use a soft toothbrush that is gentle on inflamed gums, especially if you experience bleeding after brushing your teeth. Medium and hard bristles may be too abrasive for your delicate gums. You might also consider using an electric toothbrush. The specially designed brush heads on these toothbrushes can help you to clean your gum line more easily than a manual toothbrush.

Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to determine if dental health is not the underlying issue causing your bleeding gums. A complete physical examination and blood work can help to determine the cause of your bleeding. Treatment will vary according to your condition.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Gum Disease (Gingivitis)

A severe case of gingivitis is marked by swollen, bleeding gums and swollen lymph nodes around the jaw, and neck.

Read more »

2

Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia)

A low platelet count, also called thrombocytopenia, affects your blood's ability to clot. This can cause red, purple, or brown bruising, prolonged bleeding, and nosebleeds.

Read more »

3

Leukemia

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. Excessive sweating at night, constant fatigue, weight loss, bone pain, and easy bleeding or bruising are all signs of this disease.

Read more »

4

Tooth Decay

Cavities are holes that form in the teeth due to decay. They are a common yet highly preventable dental problem. Cavities are caused when bacteria, acids, foods, and other substances turn into plaque. If the plaque i...

Read more »

5

Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a disorder where the blood doesn

Read more »

6

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and blood-forming tissues. There are many types of leukemia, each affecting different kinds of blood cells. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, is a cancer of th...

Read more »

7

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer in childhood, although it can also occur in adults. ALL is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells in a part of the body begi...

Read more »

8

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is severe scarring and poor function of the liver caused by long-term exposure to toxins such as alcohol or viral infections. Certain medications and disorder can also cause cirrhosis.

Read more »

9

Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious anemia (PA) is an autoimmune disorder in which the body fails to make enough healthy red blood cells (RBCs), resulting in vitamin B-12 deficiency. Most people experience a burning or sore tongue.

Read more »

10

Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand disease is a rare bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency of von Willebrand factor (VWF), which helps blood clot. Symptoms include excessive nose bleeds and easy bruising.

Read more »

11

Pemphigoid

Pemphigoid is a rare autoimmune disorder that can develop at any age, but that most often affects the elderly. Pemphigoid is caused by a malfunction of the immune system and results in skin rashes and blistering on th...

Read more »

12

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in the blood or blood-forming tissues. There are many different types of leukemia, and treatment is different for each one. Chronic leukemias are slower growing than acut...

Read more »

13

Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer that occurs in the blood and the marrow of the bones. Marrow is sponge-like material inside the bones that produces blood cells. AML specifically affects the white blood cells o...

Read more »

14

Factor V Deficiency

Factor V deficiency, also known as Owren's disease or parahemophilia, is a very rare blood clotting disorder that results in slow or prolonged blood clotting after an injury or surgery. Factor V (proaccelerin) is ...

Read more »

15

Factor VII Deficiency

Factor VII deficiency is a blood clotting disorder that causes excessive or prolonged bleeding after an injury or surgery. With Factor VII deficiency, your body either doesn't produce enough factor VII, or something i...

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16

Factor X Deficiency

Factor X deficiency, also called Stuart-Prower factor deficiency, is a condition caused by not having enough of the protein known as factor X in your blood. Factor X plays a role in blood clotting, also calle...

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17

Temporal Arteritis

Temporal arteritis is a condition in which the temporal arteries, which supply blood to the head and brain, become inflamed or damaged. It is also known as cranial arteritis or giant cell arteritis. Although thi...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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