Bleeding gums may be a sign of poor oral hygiene or a symptom of an underlying problem. If your gums regularly bleed when you brush your teeth, eat, or at other times, you should make an appointment at your local dental clinic.
Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums and may ask about your medical history and medications you're taking. This will give them the information they need to determine the likely cause of your gum problem and to recommend the best treatments.
Read this overview to get an idea of what might be causing your gums to bleed, what home remedies you can try and how your dentist may be able to help.
Why are my gums bleeding?
Gums can bleed for many reasons, from brushing your teeth too roughly to inflammation caused by certain health conditions.
Bleeding gums may be a short-term or long-term issue. Identifying the likely cause of gum bleeding is the first step to effective treatment.
The most common cause of bleeding gums is gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. This is caused by bacteria that can build up on the teeth around the gum line.
The body fights this infection by causing inflammation (swelling) of the gums, which makes them more sensitive and prone to bleeding. Gums with gingivitis may also appear red and feel spongy.
If your gums feel painful, or you have other symptoms such as bad breath, a bad taste in your mouth, loose teeth or signs of an infection such as discharge, gingivitis may have progressed into periodontitis.
Periodontitis is the advanced stage of gum disease. If it's not treated, it may cause gums to recede and damage the structures supporting the teeth, which can lead to tooth loss.
Untreated gum disease can also have effects beyond the mouth. There is growing evidence that gum disease may be a risk factor for a range of health conditions, including heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and arthritis, among others.
Improper brushing or flossing
Poor oral hygiene can allow bacteria to build up on the teeth in plaque and increase your risk of tooth decay. However, even if you brush and floss well, your technique or choice of tools could irritate or damage your gums.
This can happen if you use a toothbrush with firm or frayed bristles, you don't floss regularly, or you brush or floss too roughly, especially if you have sensitive gums.
Your gums may be more prone to bleeding if you have deficiencies in certain vitamins – particularly vitamin C, which helps to strengthen and protect the lining of the gums, and vitamin K, which affects blood clotting.
Denture or brace problems
Dentures, braces or other dental or orthodontic appliances worn over the teeth may cause gums to bleed if they become damaged or are too tight or otherwise poorly fitted.
Bleeding after a dental procedure or injury
Bleeding from the gum is common after injuries to the teeth or mouth and dental procedures such as a root canal or extraction.
Bleeding should normally stop within 30 minutes of pressure being applied. If bleeding continues, or you have other unexpected symptoms, contact your dentist to make an emergency appointment.
Hormone changes during pregnancy, puberty and other times can affect your body's immune response and blood flow, increasing your risk of gum disease and bleeding gums during this time.
Emotional stress can also affect your body's immune response, which can impact on gum disease.
Frequent gum bleeding can sometimes be a sign of a viral infection or underlying health problem. This can include bleeding disorders such as haemophilia and leukemia as well as diabetes and lupus erythematosus.
Medication side effects
Certain medications can also increase your risk of gum bleeding as a side effect, particularly blood-thinning medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and warfarin.
Treatments for bleeding gums
You should see a dentist if you're worried about your gums. They will complete a comprehensive oral health assessment to check for gum disease or other conditions before discussing your treatment options with you.
Depending on the cause of the problem, this may involve a dental procedure, changes to your diet and daily habits or referral to another health professional.
Improve your oral hygiene
Many cases of bleeding gums can be treated by improving your brushing and flossing technique to remove more plaque from your teeth and prevent it from hardening into calculus (tartar).
For most people, dentists recommend:
- brushing twice a day for two minutes each time
- using fluoride toothpaste
- flossing or using an interdental cleaner at least once daily
- brushing and flossing gently to avoid irritating or damaging your teeth and gums
Depending on your situation, your dentist may recommend cleaning more frequently. If you have sensitive teeth or gums, they may recommend special toothpastes or other oral hygiene products to help reduce sensitivity.
Replace your toothbrush
You should change your toothbrush or swap electric toothbrush heads every 3 to 4 months to avoid the bristles fraying and to make sure you're getting the best clean possible.
If you normally use a hard or medium-bristled toothbrush, your dentist may recommend switching to soft bristles to avoid irritating your gums. Extra-soft toothbrushes are available for sensitive teeth and gums.
Use an antibacterial mouthwash
If you need to reverse gum disease or improve your oral health generally, your dentist may recommend adding an antiseptic mouth rinse to your oral hygiene routine.
Mouthwashes containing ingredients such as chlorohexidine and hydrogen peroxide can help to kill bacteria, reduce swelling and soothe the gums. It's important to follow your dentist's recommendations and the instructions on the packaging to avoid problems.
Professional cleaning and scaling
Having your teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist or hygienist during your visit can remove plaque and hardened calculus that you can't remove yourself. They may also remove bacteria from around the tooth roots (root planing) and apply fluoride to lower your risk of further gum problems.
If bacteria have already formed pockets inside your gum, more intensive cleaning and disinfecting may be required. This could involve minor surgery to open the gum and access the infected tissue.
Improve your diet
You can lower your risk of gum disease by cutting down on sugary, starchy and processed foods that can feed bacteria in plaque. Crunchy vegetables such as carrots and celery can also help to scrub plaque off teeth.
If you have a deficiency in vitamin C or vitamin K, good dietary sources include:
- citrus fruits
- leafy greens
- olive oil
- red peppers
If your gums feel painful or sensitive, you could reduce discomfort by avoiding hot food and drinks and hard food in the short term while they recover.
Take vitamin supplements
If you think you need more vitamin C or K in your diet, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. The recommended daily amount for adults is between 65–90 milligrams of vitamin C and 90–120 micrograms of vitamin K, with men generally requiring more than women.
Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease and can impair gum healing, so your dentist will recommend trying to quit or cutting down if you're trying to improve your oral health. Smoking is also a leading cause of oral cancers, not to mention a wide range of other health concerns.
Trying to avoid stressful situations or practising relaxation techniques may help to lower your gum disease risk and help bleeding gums to recover.
Talk to a dentist
Regular dental check-ups improve the chance of your dentist catching problems such as gum disease early, before they have a chance to cause serious damage.
Your dentist should be your first port of call if you're concerned about bleeding gums. You should also make an appointment if you feel any pain or discomfort with your braces, dentures or another appliance.
Talk to a doctor
If your dentist rules out other causes of bleeding gums, they will recommend that you see your doctor or another qualified health professional who may be able to identify an underlying problem.
You should also see your doctor if you think the bleeding may be related to an existing health condition or medication you're taking so they can discuss your options.
Home remedies for bleeding gums
Your dentist may recommend home remedies to help stop temporary gum bleeding or reduce discomfort while another treatment is ongoing.
These recommendations will depend on your individual situation and what's causing your gums to bleed, but they may include:
- Applying gentle pressure with gauze or a clean cloth until blood flow has stopped
- Holding a cold compress or ice pack against your face over a bleeding gum to help reduce swelling or stop bleeding
- Swishing warm salt water in your mouth several times a day before spitting it out
- Rinsing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide solution after brushing, taking care not to swallow
Talk to a dentist in Robina
If you're worried about bleeding gums, contact our friendly team at Robina Town Dental for advice or to book an appointment with our Gold Coast dentists.
Healthdirect. Bleeding gums and dental bleeding [Online] 2019 [Accessed March 2022] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/bleeding-gums-and-dental-bleeding
Healthdirect. Gum disease [Online] 2021 [Accessed March 2022] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/gum-disease