What are bleeding gums?
Bleeding gums are the most often symptom of gum disease. But it can also point to other health problems.
Occasional bleeding of the gums can be caused by brushing your teeth too vigorously or wearing dentures that don’t fit correctly. Frequent gum bleeding can also indicate more serious conditions, including:
- periodontitis (an advanced form of gum disease)
- leukemia (cancer of the blood)
- vitamin deficiency
- lack of clotting cells (platelets)
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 prone to bleeding.
Most people develop gingivitis when plaque stays on gum lines too long. Plaque refers to the debris and bacteria that stick to your teeth. Brushing your teeth removes plaque and can prevent you from developing cavities (dental caries). But plaque may stay on your gum line, if you don’t brush and floss properly. If plaque isn’t removed it can harden into tartar (calculus), which will increase bleeding. The accumulation of plaque near your gums can also cause gingivitis.
Symptoms of gingivitis include:
- puffy gums
- soreness in the mouth and around the gums
- bleeding gums
Periodontal disease (periodontitis) can occur when gingivitis becomes advanced. Periodontal disease is as infection of the gums, jawbone, and supportive tissues that connect your teeth and gums. Periodontitis can cause your teeth to loosen or fall out.
Vitamins C and K deficiencies can also cause gums to bleed easily. But vitamin deficiencies aren’t often seen in people who live in developed countries, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. 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 have bleeding gums that aren’t caused by improper dental care. Also, follow a diet that contains both nutrients to ensure you’re getting the vitamins you need to stay healthy.
Foods rich in vitamin C include:
- citrus fruits and juices
- bell peppers
Foods rich in vitamin K include:
- Swiss chard
- mustard greens
- canola oil
- olive oil
Other causes of bleeding gums
People who wear dentures also may sometimes experience bleeding gums. This is more likely when dentures fit too tightly. Talk to your dentist or orthodontist if dentures or other oral appliances are causing your gums to bleed. They may need to take new impressions to create a better fitting mouthpiece.
Pregnancy commonly causes of gum bleeding. Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can cause the gums to be more sensitive.
Bleeding disorders like hemophilia and leukemia can also increase your risk of bleeding gums. Your gums might bleed more often if you take blood-thinning medications. Drugs in this class include warfarin, aspirin, and heparin.
Treatment of bleeding gums
Good dental hygiene is the first step to managing bleeding gums. Visit your dentist twice per year for 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 remove plaque from your gum line and reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
Your dentist may also show you to use an antiseptic mouthwash to minimize plaque that forms in your mouth. And a rinse of warm salt water can help soothe swollen gums that bleed easily.
Use a soft toothbrush. It’ll be 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 physical examination and blood work can help determine the cause of your bleeding. Treatment will vary according to your condition.