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What Causes Bleeding Gums?

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What causes bleeding gums? This usually is a sign of gum disease, also known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums and one of the most common conditions affecting the oral cavity. Bleeding gums are mainly due to plaque and/or tartar accumulation developing at the gumline. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria which will cause irritation to the gumline and will combine with food debris to form acids that may affect the teeth. When plaque builds up and mineralizes, it then becomes tartar. Bleeding gums can be caused by the bacteria from this plaque/tartar formation causing inflammation which results in bleeding gums. The gums can become red, tender and swollen and bleeding gums can also be associated with bad breath, recession and tooth sensitivity.

The Risk Factors and What Can Bleeding Gums Lead To?

It is important to control bleeding gums because if left untreated, bleeding gums can lead to periodontal disease. This involves the loss of the supporting bone around the teeth, resulting then in tooth loss. Therefore, it is very important to keep plaque from forming in your mouth. Plaque can be removed with proper brushing and flossing, but tartar formation requires a trip to the dentist or dental hygienist for a professional cleaning. Poor oral hygiene is the leading cause for bleeding gums. Removing plaque reverses many cases of gum disease.

Other factors that can contribute to bleeding gums are:

  • Brushing too hard

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy

  • Improper flossing

  • Malocclusion

  • Smoking

  • Infection

  • Poor nutrition

  • Use of anticoagulant medications

  • Vitamins C or Vitamin K deficiencies

  • Diabetes

  • Heart disease

According to the AAP, about 3 out of 4 people suffer with some form of bleeding gums. Because of improper dental hygiene, the slow progression of the disease of the gums can further deteriorate the bone supporting the teeth. This condition known as periodontal disease can be prevented. The goal is to stop disease progression. Proper oral health care is paramount.

Bleeding gums can also be an indicator of underlying medical problems. Diabetes is not only a risk factor for gum disease, but untreated gum disease may make diabetes worse. Some people can have a potential association between gum disease and other serious health conditions too, such as heart disease and stroke. Patients with poor oral health can have an inflammatory process that affects the entire body.

The Importance of Proper Oral Hygiene

Proper oral hygiene is very important in improving not only the gums, but an important issue for chronic health conditions too. Dental professionals should stress good daily dental health habits like brushing twice a day and daily flossing. Flossing will prevent plaque from building up in between the teeth, where the toothbrush cannot reach. The proper utilization of a soft toothbrush, along with correct usage of dental floss, is of utmost importance. Procedures such as professional dental cleanings twice a year, daily oral health habits like brushing and flossing, along with an antibacterial rinse, can help to keep gingivitis from forming.

To maintain a healthy smile, use proper oral hygiene care, along with a suitable toothpaste, patients will achieve the best possible outcome for their optimal oral health.

Learn more on how to fight gum disease in the Colgate Oral Care resources.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.