family brushing teeth together

Do Your Gums Bleed When Flossing?

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

It's fairly common to encounter bleeding gums when you first begin flossing between teeth, and as long as the bleeding stops quickly, it's not usually considered a problem. It is a good idea to have your dentist or hygienist check your mouth for gum or periodontal diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis, which are common and treatable. This article will provide information on causes and possible remedies and treatments.

Have you noticed your gums bleeding after you floss? Don't panic! Bleeding could mean you need to floss more often. It's relatively common for gums to bleed when you first begin flossing between teeth, and as long as the bleeding stops quickly, it's not usually considered a problem. While it might feel like the opposite of what you should do, continue to floss daily. However, if you're a long-time flosser, there could be another issue at play. It is a good idea to have your dentist or hygienist check your mouth for gum or periodontal diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis, which are common and treatable. Gingivitis is the reversible form of the disease, and periodontitis is the more severe form of the disease resulting in the loss of bone that supports the teeth in your jaw. If you are a long-time flosser and notice bleeding, your gum health might need attention.

Causes of Bleeding Gums

Several things can cause gums to bleed when flossing:

  • Rough flossing or improper flossing technique. See this video for proper flossing technique.
  • New to regular flossing? Some bleeding is normal and should clear up in about a week.
  • Poor nutrition — and specifically, a vitamin C deficiency — can also contribute to bleeding gums.
  • If you are taking a new medication and noticing consistent bleeding when flossing, you may want to talk to your physician. The use of blood-thinning medications can sometimes exacerbate the issue.
  • If your gums are inflamed, you may have gingivitis or a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis. Plaque, as well as tartar buildup, are direct causes of gingivitis and form when you don't have proper daily brushing and flossing habits.
  • Pregnancy gingivitis –  Hormonal changes can cause increased sensitivity to plaque bacteria, resulting in gum inflammation during pregnancy. Proper brushing and flossing can help with tender, bleeding gums during pregnancy. Be sure to let your dentist and physician know, and they may recommend professional cleanings.
  • Smoking and some medical conditions can increase the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis in susceptible individuals. These conditions include diabetes, drug abuse, HIV infection, autoimmune diseases, and stress. It is important to note that some smokers will not bleed even though they can have significant periodontal disease.

Bleeding Gums Remedies

If the reason your gums are bleeding during flossing is gingivitis, there are remedies for improving the condition. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. The good news is this is very common and reversible with a thorough professional dental cleaning and a good daily oral hygiene program. Plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis — the bacteria in plaque irritates and infects the gums, causing tenderness and swelling. Getting rid of this sticky substance through daily brushing and flossing and regular professional cleanings can often be enough to treat gingivitis. Your dentist may recommend that you come in more frequently than every six months to help manage plaque buildup and monitor your oral health.

If your gingivitis goes untreated, it can advance to periodontitis. Unlike gingivitis that affects your gums, the bone and support around your teeth may recede as your immune response tries to fight the bacteria in periodontitis. It is vital to see your general dentist or Periodontist, a dentist specializing in treating patients with periodontitis, for professional treatment. They may recommend a treatment known as scaling and root planing. Scaling involves removing plaque and tartar from teeth and from under the gumline. Root planing is a procedure that involves scaling the root surface to remove plaque and tartar from it.

It may also help to use a rinse to kill bacteria in hard-to-reach areas. You can discuss with your dentist for them to recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription rinse.

You should also eat a balanced diet to develop and maintain healthy gums and strong teeth. Brush your teeth at least twice each day, floss once a day, and use mouth rinse as needed to ensure a healthy mouth. If you're not sure you're brushing correctly, you can ask your dental hygienist for some tips, and if you smoke, consider options to help you quit.

Dental Checkups and Your Gums

Your first line of defense against bleeding gums should always be a visit with your dentist. The American Dental Association recommends giving your dentist a call if bleeding gums are a regular occurrence when flossing or if the bleeding concerns you. If your medical history, including any medications, contributes to your bleeding gums, your dentist can reach out to your physician to discuss ways to work together to resolve this problem.

Seeing your gums bleed during flossing can be startling, but in most cases, there's nothing to worry about, as the problem can be resolved easily as long as you follow up with your dentist. Keep up your daily brushing and flossing habits, and if the problem persists, your dental professional will be there to help. Remember, flossing is an essential part of oral hygiene and can help keep your mouth healthy.


Want more tips and offers sent directly to your inbox?

Sign up now

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.

Mobile Top Image
Was this article helpful?

Thank you for submitting your feedback!

If you’d like a response, Contact Us.

Mobile Bottom Image