What Causes Bleeding Gums

What Causes Bleeding Gums?

Gum disease, also called gingivitis, can present with no symptoms in its early stages, making it most easily diagnosed by dentists during routine dental examinations. When symptoms do occur, they most commonly include visible swelling and tenderness in the gums, and bleeding from the gums when exposed to the routine pressures and friction of brushing and flossing. When intercepted early, gum disease can be reversed and the oral tissues can return to health. When allowed to progress and develop into periodontal disease, or periodontitis, however, the damage to the oral tissues is more significant and can only be repaired, not reversed. Sometimes, a person’s gums can bleed for reasons other than gum disease, but only a dentist is qualified to make this call; for this reason, if your gums are bleeding for more than a few days, or if they bleed intermittently for a month or more, see your dentist for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

While most chronic gingival bleeding is a result of gum disease, sporadic bleeding from the gums can arise for a few different reasons. One common cause of occasional bleeding is friction or irritation of the delicate gingival tissues, which can result from overly aggressive brushing, improper flossing, or ill-fitting or malfunctioning dentures and dental restorations. Less common causes of bleeding gums include vitamin deficiencies, specifically vitamins C and K, or leukemia and other blood disorders, and certain underlying conditions can increase the risk of gum inflammation and bleeding. The most common cause of bleeding gums, however, is gum disease.

Gum disease develops when bacterial plaque accumulates on the teeth, particularly along the gum line. Plaque is a natural byproduct of bacteria, found in food and drinks, that combines with saliva and clings to the surfaces of the teeth. Plaque can be removed with effective brushing and flossing, but it’s difficult to remove every trace of plaque from more remote and hidden areas of the mouth. When plaque remains on the teeth over time, it hardens and turns into tartar, also called dental calculus, which is calcified plaque that can only be removed by a dental professional using specialized cleaning tools. As tartar solidifies near the gum line, it causes the gums to become inflamed and more prone to bleeding upon brushing or flossing. With routine professional cleanings, tartar can be removed, allowing gum inflammation to subside and restoring the gums to health. When tartar isn’t cleaned away and gum disease is allowed to progress, gingival inflammation can lead to detachment of the oral connective tissues and eventually cause tooth loss and bone deterioration in the jaw while contributing to the risk of dental abscesses and overarching health concerns.

The best lines of defense against gum disease are keeping the teeth clean, especially at the gum line, and seeing a dentist regularly for routine checkups and cleanings. If your gums are bleeding because of gum disease, your dentist can treat the issue and provide instruction on keeping it from returning. If your gums are bleeding because you’re brushing or flossing incorrectly, they can teach you how to clean your teeth harmlessly and effectively. If your gums are more prone to bleeding because of a vitamin deficiency or other health concern, your dentist can provide referrals and counsel to address big-picture concerns. In short, the best way to understand what causes bleeding gums, and to prevent the problem from continuing, is to see your dentist for regular checkups and to make an appointment if you notice that your gums are bleeding more consistently or more often. Early intervention could make a significant difference in long-term health outcomes.