If you notice bleeding gums while you're brushing or when you peer into the mirror, you might be alarmed. In this post, our Edmonton dentists discuss dental diseases and other medical conditions that may cause gums to bleed, as well as treatment options.
What are bleeding gums?
If you've ever been concerned about discovering blood on your toothbrush or seeing red, swollen or bleeding gums when you look in the mirror, you're far from alone.
You'll likely naturally wonder, 'What causes bleeding gums?' While gums may bleed occasionally if you are wearing dentures that don't fit correctly or you've happened to brush your teeth too vigorously, more frequent gum bleeding can also point to more serious health problems.
What is the main cause of bleeding gums?
Advanced gum disease (periodontitis) is the most common cause of bleeding gums. That said, when it comes to swollen, inflamed or bleeding gums, other potential causes can range from infection to stress, anemia, trauma and more.
Practicing good oral hygiene can prevent gingivitis (early-stage gum disease). The disease is treatable if diagnosed soon enough. Some people may also be at increased risk for gingivitis, including those who smoke, live with diabetes, experience hormonal fluctuations (for example, pregnant females), or have dry mouth.
Untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which causes the gum sockets to become loose around the teeth. This can lead to bleeding gums.
Many health problems can cause gums to bleed, including underlying medical conditions. Some disorders will need medical diagnosis and treatment right away since they also have other serious consequences for physical health.
If you have a herpes simplex virus infection, you may also be experiencing soreness of the oral mucosa and severe pain along with bleeding gums.
Transmitted via direct sexual contact or contact with the blood of an HIV-positive individual, HIV can lead to serious infections when the immune system becomes compromised. This condition can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby.
An HIV infection may result in numerous medical issues, including dental problems such as soreness in the oral cavity (lips, mouth or tongue) and bleeding gums. Serologic testing will need to be done to confirm HIV.
Lack of red blood cells causes anemia. One type of anemia is pernicious anemia, which is related to poor absorption of Vitamin B12. This condition can also cause bleeding gums.
Stress can cause the gingiva to become inflamed, leaving the gums vulnerable to injury or trauma. An individual who experiences prolonged high levels of stress also has a suppressed immune system. This can inhibit coagulation processes and leave them susceptible to bacterial infections.
A diet deficient in Vitamin C and Vitamin K can cause your gums to bleed more easily. Have your doctor check your Vitamin C and K levels if you are taking proper care of your teeth and gums, but still find that your gums are bleeding. Also make sure to include enough nutrients in your diet to ensure your body gets the vitamins it needs to stay healthy.
Vitamin C-rich foods include strawberries, citrus fruits and juices, broccoli and tomatoes. Foods rich in Vitamin K include soybeans, lettuce, spinach, kale and watercress.
Leukemia & Gum Cancer
Painless eruptions on the tongue, inner cheeks or gum surfaces often indicate oral cancer. The disease often causes gums to bleed.
Leukemia, which produces immature or non-functional leukocytes and platelet deficiency, is another common cause of bleeding gums. Other symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, liver and spleen.
Lack of Clotting Cells (Platelets)
Platelets are colourless blood cells that help blood clot. Bleeding stops when platelets clump and form plugs in blood vessel injuries. A decrease in blood clotting factors typically causes bleeding and bruising, including in and around the gums.
Hormones fluctuate during pregnancy. This can lead to inflammation and soreness in the gums. Practicing excellent oral hygiene can prevent bleeding gums during pregnancy. Don't forget to visit your dentist if you notice your gums are bleeding more often.
While the soft tissues in our mouths stand up to daily use and the oral environment, our gums (along with our lips, tongue and cheek lining - can be affected by a range of injuries, from scalding to sports injuries, accidental bites or foreign bodies that become lodged below tm line, potentially leading to a painful abscess.
Are bleeding gums serious?
While gum bleeding may be alarming, it is usually not serious. If you have sensitive gums, they may become irritated after you brush or floss your teeth and become red, swollen or bloody.
Plaque or tartar buildup is the most common cause of bleeding gums. When bacteria grow along the gum line, this can cause gingivitis. The good news is that we can prevent sensitivity and bleeding with good oral hygiene.
Other common causes of sensitive or bleeding gums include:
- Not brushing frequently enough (at least twice daily).
- Using a toothbrush that is too hard or stiff.
- Using a frayed, worn toothbrush that's ineffective at cleaning teeth.
- Being too rough with dental floss, instead of gently pushing it down and hugging the sides of each tooth.
- Taking certain medicines, such as ibuprofen, blood thinners or aspirin.
When should I be concerned about bleeding gums?
While bleeding gums typically aren't serious, they shouldn't happen every day.
If the issue arises frequently or does not disappear with good oral hygiene practice, a dentist can examine your gums to determine whether early-stage gum disease or other problems may be the culprit.
Your dentist can help prevent and treat early-stage gingivitis, keeping it from becoming more serious. Gum disease can eventually lead to infection, tooth loss and other problems for your overall health. A dentist can also detect other oral health problems, such as early-stage oral cancer.
How can I stop my gums from bleeding?
Using these methods, you may be able to stop gums from bleeding and coming back again:
- Place a clean, damp gauze against the affected area until the blood stops flowing.
- Hold an ice cube, small ice pack or cool compress against swollen, bleeding gums to help soothe them. Use the ice for 10 minutes at a time, then alternate with a 10-minute break. Contact your Edmonton dentist if the bleeding persists.
- Use a salt rinse or antibacterial mouthwash.
- Avoiding starchy, processed and sugary foods that can cause the gums to become inflamed and bleed, and increase your risk for tooth decay.
- Eat crunchy vegetables.
- Avoid smoking.
How are bleeding gums treated?
Long-term, the best treatment for bleeding gums is prevention. We recommend our patients adopt healthful habits that prevent diseases that cause bleeding gums.
It's possible to avoid and prevent bleeding gums and other oral health issues by:
- Maintaining an effective oral hygiene routine, including brushing twice per day and flossing once per day.
- Replacing your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
- Seeing your Edmonton dentist and dental hygienist regularly for professional teeth cleaning, tartar removal and dental exams.
- Avoiding smoking or working with a doctor to find effective methods of quitting smoking.
- Eating a healthful diet, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting sugary, processed foods.