The Specialist

Why gums bleed

Do your gums bleed when you floss or brush your teeth? The most common cause of bleeding gums is gum disease. Almost 70 percent of adults suffer from some form of gum disease. Bleeding gums may also be caused by something as simple as the wrong brushing technique.

The main cause of bleeding gums is the buildup of plaque at the gum line. If not removed, this leads to gingivitis where gums become swollen and tender. If not treated, gingivitis can lead to full-blown periodontitis. Periodontitis is one of the main causes of early tooth loss in adults. The good news is that gingivitis is reversible with proper treatment.

Brushing too hard:
Aggressively brushing your teeth does not clean your teeth better. Instead, it can lead to trauma to the gums causing gum recession and bleeding. You should adjust the brushing technique and use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Despite what one may assume, a soft-bristled brush is safer to the tissue and just as effective as “hard” or “medium”.

Wearing poorly fitted dentures:
Dentures that do not fit properly can cause gum bleeding if they irritate your gums and cause mouth sores. People who do not take out their dentures at night may be especially prone to bleeding gums. If you wear dentures, it is especially important to take out your dentures, then brush and floss your teeth and clean your dentures.

Pregnancy gingivitis is a term used to describe a gum condition during pregnancy. About half of pregnant women experience swollen, red, tender gums that bleed during brushing or flossing. This happens because hormonal changes during pregnancy alter the body’s response to bacteria that cause gum disease. Going to your dentist and dental hygienists regularly in conjunction with regular brushing and daily flossing can help to prevent gum inflammation and bleeding from becoming worse.

Poor diet:
Some ingredients in processed food can irritate the gums and cause them to bleed. Avoid processed and sugary food, and alternatively use a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and food rich in calcium, vitamins A, K and C, and magnesium.

Health problems:
Gum bleeding is more common in patients with certain health problems, such as liver disease, blood clotting disorders, anemia and leukemia. Alcoholics tend to bleed more. Alternatively, smokers tend to bleed less because the nicotine damages the gum’s ability to recognize trauma.

Blood thinning medications:
Prescribed blood thinning medications reduce blood’s ability to clot, which results in easier bleeding. This can be a concern for dental procedures that cause bleeding (e.g. deep cleaning, extractions, and dental implants). You should always tell your dentist if you are taking blood thinning medications at every dental visit.

Changes in dental hygiene routine: If you have not flossed regularly or brushed properly, your gums may start to bleed when you begin to brush. You should always brush your teeth prior to going to sleep and especially after eating. Returning to good hygiene habits sometimes eliminates bleeding gums. If it doesn’t, then contact your dentist to set up an appointment because this may be a sign of gingivitis.

A critical concern for bleeding gums associated with gingivitis and periodontitis is the effect of the inflammation on the rest of the body. Locally, gum disease can also cause halitosis (bad breath) and shaky teeth. As far as your overall health is concerned, gum disease can aggravate other chronic diseases one may suffer.

The best prevention or treatment for bleeding gums is to maintain good oral hygiene. This means correct brushing, flossing and regular dental visits.

Bleeding gums are not normal. It’s a noteworthy sign that something is wrong. Maintain good oral health by enjoying good habits thereby promoting good health and wellness.

 • Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or For further information visit    

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