Are bleeding gums when flossing reason enough to prompt a call to the dentist? Gums that bleed after daily flossing can be a warning sign of gingivitis, the initial stage of gum disease. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress into the more advanced stages of gum disease, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. The advanced stages can result in permanent tissue damage and tooth loss. The earlier this disease is recognized, the more likely it can be treated successfully or even reversed. Regular dental visits can help get your gum health back on track.
Whether or not you notice bleeding gums when flossing, you should still plan on seeing your dentist at least every six months. Routine visits can help to fight and prevent gum disease for two reasons. First, an oral exam allows your dentist to determine if you are showing signs of gingivitis or periodontitis and what measures can be taken to improve your oral health. Second, your dentist or dental hygienist can remove plaque buildup under your gums and hardened tartar on your teeth by conducting a professional cleaning.
Plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis. The bacteria in plaque can irritate and infect the gum tissue, causing the 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 than every six months to help manage plaque buildup and monitor your oral health. For extra gum protection, talk to your dentist about using an American-Dental-Association approved anticavity, antiplaque toothpaste like Colgate Total Gum Defense. If your bleeding gums are a sign of advanced periodontiits, your dentist may recommend a nonsurgical treatment such 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 of the root surface to remove plaque and tartar from it.
Gingivitis is not the only possible cause of bleeding gums. A new flossing routine or the use of blood thinning medications can cause this issue as well. If you just started flossing regularly and you notice some bleeding, then this should clear up in about a week. If you are taking a new medication and notice consistent bleeding when flossing, then you may want to talk to your physician. Some pregnant women experience what is known as pregnancy gingivitis; hormone changes can cause an increased sensitivity to plaque bacteria, resulting in gum inflammation during pregnancy. Proper brushing and flossing habits as well as at least one dental appointment while pregnant can help with pregnancy gingivitis.
The American Dental Association recommends giving your dentist or physician a call if bleeding gums are a regular occurrence when flossing or if the bleeding concerns you.