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If you spit blood when you brush your teeth, it’s likely that you have bleeding gums. This could be a sign that you’re brushing too hard, or it could be that you have an underlying health condition.
It’s important to speak to your dentist if you notice recurring bleeding, as it’s rare your gums will start bleeding for no reason. They can help to identify the underlying cause and manage it with treatment or professional cleaning before it gets worse.
In this article, we’ll explain the different bleeding gums causes and treatment options to help you figure out what might be behind your problem.
- Why are my gums bleeding?
- Treating and preventing bleeding gums
- When to see a dentist about bleeding gums
- Bleeding gums: Frequently asked questions
Why are my gums bleeding?
There are lots of bleeding gum causes – some relate to lifestyle, and some relate to your general or oral health. Here are some of the most common reasons your gums might start bleeding:
Brushing or flossing too hard
We all know that brushing and flossing help to remove plaque build-up from our teeth and keep them clean. But did you know that overdoing it could do more harm than good? Over-brushing your teeth could end up damaging the protective enamel layer on your teeth and irritate your gums, causing them to bleed.
You may also get bleeding gums if your toothbrush is too firm. Try using a soft bristled brush if your gums become irritated - but don’t stop brushing altogether.
Introducing flossing to your daily routine may also cause initial irritation and bleeding, as your gums won’t be used to the sensation. If this is the case, start gentle and your gums should settle down as they get used to your new oral hygiene routine.
Gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis
Bleeding gums are one of the main and early symptoms of gum disease. Typically, you may notice your gums bleeding after brushing or flossing your teeth.
Plaque build-up on your teeth and at the gum line can lead to inflamed gums. That’s because the sticky substance, plaque, contains bacteria, some of which can be harmful to your gums (although certain types are harmless).
This build-up of plaque can cause gingivitis – the early stage of gum disease. You can treat this to try and reverse the effects but, if left untreated, the plaque is likely to harden and become tartar. The build-up may irritate the inside of your mouth, leading to swollen, red, bleeding, and sore gums.
As more tartar develops at the gum line, it can increase the bleeding and become periodontitis – an advanced stage of gum disease. This can permanently damage the bones and tissues holding your teeth in place.
Lacking vitamins K and C can cause bleeding gums. Vitamin C is needed for tissue growth and repair, while vitamin K helps your blood to clot properly. Being deficient in either of these essential vitamins can lead to swollen gums, which may start to bleed.
During pregnancy, your body experiences several hormonal changes. Some of these can make your gums more vulnerable to plaque, which can cause them to become inflamed. As a result, bleeding gums during pregnancy is a common experience for many women and is referred to as pregnancy gingivitis.
If you notice that your gums keep bleeding when you get a small cut or have dental work done, it could be a sign of an underlying blood disorder, such as haemophilia or Willebrand disease. These conditions impact your blood’s ability to clot correctly, which means your gums are more likely to bleed.
Certain medications, such as blood thinners, could also increase the risk of bleeding gums. If you have to take blood thinning medication and it causes your gums to bleed, try using a damp cloth to press firmly on the bleeding area for 30 minutes. For 24-hours after the bleeding, avoid smoking, spitting, rinsing, hot drinks, and using straw, as well as not eating hard foods for a couple of days. Contact your dentist if your gums continue to bleed for an hour or more.
Treating and preventing bleeding gums
Even if you notice some bleeding after brushing, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is an underlying cause. Most of the time, symptoms can be treated at home. This can include:
- Brushing more gently – using too much force when brushing can cause bleeding gums. Brushing with adequate pressure can help remove plaque and protect teeth and gums from damage and disease. Evidence shows that using a light amount of pressure is plenty to keep them clean.
- Using a softer toothbrush – it may be necessary to switch to a softer toothbrush to reduce gum damage and help stop your gums bleeding after brushing.
- Replacing your old toothbrush – over time, your toothbrush may become worn and stop cleaning the gum line as effectively as it should, especially if the bristles are splayed. Aim to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months - or sooner if you notice the bristles becoming visibly frayed or matted.
- Practicing interdental cleaning – a toothbrush cannot get to all the places in between our teeth, so it’s important to clean in between teeth daily using interdental brushes or floss – otherwise pockets of plaque may build up. Remember, you might experience some bleeding after flossing or using interdental brushes for the first time, but this should clear up the more you do it.
- Rinsing with a mouthwash for bleeding gums– try using a product designed especially for treating bleeding gums, such as LISTERINE® Advanced Defence Gum Treatment. The mouthwash creates a protective shield that can help prevent plaque attaching to your teeth, allowing your gums to repair and restore themselves.
- Increasing your intake of vitamins C and K – you can get vitamin C into your diet naturally by eating more fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, potatoes, and broccoli. Leafy greens, such as broccoli and spinach, along with cereal grains and vegetable oils, are excellent sources of vitamin K too.
When to see your dentist about bleeding gums
While bleeding gums aren’t always a sign of a serious underlying problem, you should book an appointment with a dentist or GP if you experience any of the following:
- Very sore and swollen gums
- Bleeding gums when brushing or eating hard foods
- Teeth that feel loose or are falling out
- Consistently bad breath
- Multiple ulcers or red or sore patches in your mouth
- A new lump in your mouth, on your gums or lips.