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Taking Care of Swollen, Bleeding Gums

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Gum problems can affect anyone. Whether you brushed too hard or flossed too vigorously, you've probably seen your gums turn red, become swollen or even bleed when you brush or floss. Healthy gums usually recover quickly from mild trauma, but if you have swollen, bleeding gums for several days or longer, there likely may be other problems that are contributing to the condition.

Possible Causes of Bleeding Gums

Normal gums are pink and firm to the touch. If your gums appear bright red, swollen, puffy or sensitive, this is generally a sign of gum disease. The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis – the most common cause of gum problems in adults. The South African Dental Association reports that dental cavities and periodontal (gum) disease are the most common oral diseases.

However, there are other causes of swollen or bleeding gums, including:

  • A person who has a bleeding disorder
  • Pregnancy and hormonal changes in women
  • Wearing dentures that don't fit properly
  • Brushing too hard
  • Incorrect flossing
  • Systemic infections
  • Use of chemotherapy
  • People on blood thinner medication
  • Smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Vitamin deficiency

Preventive Measures

Proper oral hygiene helps prevent swollen, bleeding gum issues. Brushing for about two minutes at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day is essential. To brush your teeth correctly, use short, gentle strokes and pay extra attention to the gum line, your back teeth and any fillings, crowns or restorations you have. Consider using a soft-bristled toothbrush, which has a flexible toothbrush head and is specifically designed to prevent excess pressure on your gums.

Start to floss once an evening before you go to bed. Proper flossing between the teeth, curving the floss around the tooth in a "C" shape and gently moving it up and down as well as under the gum line is important. Make sure you use a new section of floss for each tooth so you are not moving plaque around from tooth to tooth. As flossing helps to remove plaque germs and food debris, it's an important preventative step in avoiding gum disease.

Swollen and Bleeding Gums in Children

Gum disease is common in children, but preventable and treatable. Teaching children proper brushing habits early and scheduling regular dental check-ups to treat any gum or tooth-related problems will help.

If your child is getting a new tooth, you will see swelling and redness in that area. Apply ice to the area to soothe the inflammation. Sometimes, hard candy or crunchy items can scrape a child's gums, which can cause bleeding and swelling. It's also common for children to injure their mouths after a fall or while playing. If the injury looks severe and any bleeding lasts more than 10 minutes, visit a doctor.

Treatment

For milder cases of swollen gums, consider cleaning the gums properly and swishing salt water around in your mouth, which can help reduce swelling. For bleeding gums, a gauze pad dipped in ice water or a damp tea bag pressed on the site will provide relief. It is recommended to take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as analgesics or other pain killers, to reduce pain.

The best treatment for gingivitis is a professional dental cleaning to remove tartar and plaque. Brushing with an antimicrobial toothpaste helps fight germs for 12 hours and aids in reducing plaque, gum problems, tartar build-up, cavities and bad breath between visits to your dentist.