Why are My Gums Bleeding?

Many of you may remember the commercial from the 1990’s that talked about seeing “pink in the sink”.  This brought awareness to the fact that bleeding gums are not normal.  In fact, if you see pink in the sink after you spit while brushing or flossing, it is very likely that you have gingivitis.

Healthy Gums do NOT Bleed.

It is very important to not ignore bleeding gums.  The bleeding is an indication of inflammation somewhere in your mouth, usually in the gums lining the teeth.  Acute inflammation is a response to some type of injury or irritant, and it causes redness, swelling, tenderness, bleeding, and sometimes a little heat.  The bleeding is a red flag that something unhealthy is going on.

What Causes Bleeding Gums?

Bleeding means that there is acute inflammation present in the gums, and we call this gingivitis.  There are basically two underlying causes of inflammation, and there are lots of other conditions that can predispose you to those causes.

  1. Bacteria in plaquePlaque Buildup – Dental plaque is a collection of bacteria, food debris, and exfoliated mouth-lining cells that sticks to the teeth and gums. It builds up constantly throughout the day and night.  The bacteria in plaque produce toxins that infiltrate and irritate the surrounding gum tissue, causing acute inflammation.  To prevent bleeding gums, it is essential to remove plaque on a daily basis.

    Predisposing Conditions:

    1. Poor Oral Hygiene – Poor oral hygiene means that you are not effectively removing dental plaque from the teeth. By leaving the plaque in place, you are allowing inflammation to occur.  In order to have good oral hygiene, you must brush twice a day (after breakfast, and before bedtime) and floss every night before bed.  Because no one perfectly removes all of the plaque from his or her teeth, professional teeth cleanings are necessary on a consistent basis to ensure that you prevent inflammation in the gums.
    2. Hormone Surges – Drastic changes in hormone levels also put you at high risk for gum inflammation. This commonly occurs during pregnancy, puberty and menopause.  Because these hormone swings put you at high risk for gingivitis, it is extremely important that you practice great oral hygiene during these times.  Some of our pregnant patients even need to have professional teeth cleanings on a more frequent basis to prevent this acute gingivitis.
    3. Crooked Teeth – Crooked teeth are more difficult to clean. They providing many great hiding spots for collections of plaque.  Scientific studies show that the type of bacteria present in the plaque on crooked teeth are actually more dangerous and likely to cause disease than those on straight teeth!
    4. Dry Mouth – Dry mouth is a condition that affects millions of Americans. Often it is a side effect of prescription medications.  Dry mouth is dangerous because it allows increased buildup of plaque inside the mouth.  Saliva is the body’s natural defense against plaque and its inherent bacteria.  Without saliva, plaque can take over, becoming larger, stickier, and more difficult to remove from the teeth.
      Toothpicks
  2. Injury – In the rare cases that inflammation is not the result of plaque buildup, it is the result of an injury to the gums. The most common culprits are popcorn shells, sharp edges of tortilla chips, and splinters from wooden toothpicks.  As these small items become lodged in the gums, the body responds to that injury with inflammation.  The good news is that the inflammation quickly subsides when the foreign object is no longer present, and you keep the area clean from any plaque buildup.

What Can I Do About Bleeding Gums?

In many cases, you will need to see a dentist about bleeding gums.  Anytime you experience bleeding in your gums that persists for more than 2-3 days, call to schedule a visit with us so that we can find the cause and treat it.  This is especially important in areas of injury.  Often there is a fragment of the offending object remaining in the gum tissue, and we must remove it in order to allow your gums to heal.

In the meantime, you can help reduce inflammation in your gums by improving your oral hygiene.  It is tempting to avoid an area of the gums that is tender or bleeding, but if you avoid it, you are then allowing plaque to accumulate, which will only compound your inflammation problem.

Adding a mouthwash to your regimen can also help reduce inflammation.  Avoid any that contain alcohol, as that can lead to dry mouth and aggravate the problem.  If you do not have any mouthwash at home, you can simply use warm salt water to swish and flush out those areas of inflammation.

More Questions about Bleeding Gums?

Call 972-347-1145 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill and Dr. Cara.  They will investigate the cause of your bleeding gums and help you take steps to fight the inflammation causing the problem.

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