Taking Care of Swollen, Bleeding Gums

three smiling women sitting at table talking about swollen gums

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.


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.

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.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and germs can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.

Keep your teeth clean with an oral health routine.

Establishing an oral health routine is important for a healthy mouth. Try one of our oral health products to help you establish a schedule.