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's a good idea to have your dentist or hygienist check your mouth for gum problems or 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 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. While it may feel counter-intuitive, you should continue to floss daily. However, if you're a long-time flosser, there could be another issue at play. It's a good idea to have your dentist check your mouth for gum problems or periodontitis, which are common and treatable. Gum problems are reversible, while periodontitis is a more serious condition 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.
Several things can cause gums to bleed when flossing:
- Rough flossing or improper flossing technique. See this video for the 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 sensitive, you may have gum problems or a more severe condition known as periodontitis. Plaque, as well as tartar build-up, are direct causes of gum problems and occur when you don't have proper daily brushing and flossing habits.
- Pregnancy gingivitis – Hormonal changes can cause increased sensitivity to plaque germs, 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 gum problems and periodontitis in susceptible individuals. These conditions include diabetes, drug abuse, HIV, autoimmune diseases, and stress. It is important to note that some smokers will not bleed even though they may have significant periodontal disease.
If your gums are bleeding during flossing due to gingivitis, there are remedies for improving the condition. According to the Oral Hygiene Association of South Africa (OHASA), gingivitis is an inflammatory condition of the soft tissues surrounding the teeth, while periodontitis (the more severe form of the condition) involves the destruction of the supporting structures of the teeth and periodontium. Gingivitis is a very common condition that is reversible with a thorough professional dental cleaning and a good daily oral hygiene programme. Plaque is the primary cause of the condition — the germs in plaque irritate 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 these gum problems. Your dentist may recommend that you come in more frequently than every six months to help manage plaque build-up and monitor your oral health.
If your gum problems go untreated, they 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 germs 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 mouthwash to kill germs in hard-to-reach areas. You can discuss this with your dentist and ask them to recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription mouthwash.
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 mouthwash as needed to ensure a healthy mouth. If you're unsure how to brush your teeth correctly, ask your dental hygienist for some tips; if you smoke, consider options to help you quit.
Dental Check-ups and Your Gums
Your first line of defence against bleeding gums should always be an appointment 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.