Bleeding Gums: Causes and How to Fix It!

Have you ever noticed your gums bleeding when you brush or floss? Maybe even when you eat hard or crunchy foods? Or maybe your gums just bleed seemingly at random when you’re talking or going about your day.

Bleeding gums aren’t usually an emergency, but it’s important to know what your gums are trying to tell you and what you can do to stop them from bleeding!

Is It Normal for Gums to Bleed?

Lots of people have bleeding gums. In fact, it’s so common that many people think it’s normal for their gums to bleed. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s healthy!

Think of it this way: if your scalp started bleeding when you brushed your hair, you’d probably freak out. You wouldn’t think, “Oh, it only happens when I brush, so it’s normal,” or, “It’s only bleeding a little bit and it stops right away, no big deal!”

Okay, so gum tissue is a little different than the skin on your scalp, but the idea is the same. If you have an area of skin that’s tender, red, swollen, and bleeds easily when you touch or mess with it, these are all red flags that something is really wrong, and you probably have an infection.

These are all the same signs we use to determine if your gums are healthy or not! In a healthy state, your gums should be firm, pink, tight to the teeth, and shouldn’t bleed easily.

While all of these are important signs, bleeding is the number one criteria we use to diagnose gum disease. Why is that?

Why Gums Bleed When You Brush or Floss (in Most Cases)

In general, healthy gums don’t bleed. When your gums are healthy, the tissue is firm and pink and has plenty of keratin and collagen.

The Scaffolding for Healthy Gums: Keratin and Collagen

Keratin is the compound in your skin that makes it hard and resistant to damage. Your fingernails and hair are made of keratin, and if you have calluses on your palms or the soles of your feet, those are areas where the skin has built up extra keratin.

Collagen is another compound that keeps your skin youthful and gives it elasticity and resilience. Healthy gums have tightly packed collagen, but oral bacteria release specific enzymes that can break down collagen and lead to periodontal disease.

Bacteria Breaks Down Keratin and Collagen

Bacteria on or near the gums release chemicals that can damage your gums. These chemicals also trigger your immune system to try and fight off what it perceives as an infection, so your body will start flooding the area with white blood cells and materials to kill the bacteria.

Unfortunately, your own immune response can actually make your gums even worse!

Your gum tissue gets caught in the battle between bacteria and immune cells, and before long the keratin and collagen (along with lots of other important structures) start to break down. You may notice your gums look puffy and red, feel spongy or swollen, and most importantly, that they bleed when you brush or floss.

If your gum disease goes untreated, your bleeding may become severe and will happen more and more easily as you lose more of the support structure that keeps your gums tough.

While bacterial plaque and inflammation are the most common reasons gums bleed, there are other potential causes.

Other Factors That Can Make Your Gums Bleed

In almost all cases, the less bacteria you cultivate, the healthier your gums will be. But that doesn’t mean it’s equally easy for everyone! There are many factors that can add levels of difficulty to keeping your gums as healthy as possible.

  • Systemic Diseases: Some systemic diseases can make your gums bleed more easily. Diabetes is one of the most common. Because diabetics have higher sugar content in their blood and saliva, their oral environment is sweeter than other people’s. Which makes it an ideal habitat for some of the most aggressive bacteria! Because diabetics tend to build plaque very easily, they’re more prone to gum disease, bleeding gums, and tooth loss.
  • Hormone Changes: Pregnancy, puberty, your monthly cycle, menopause, and other hormonal shifts throughout your life can cause gum irritation and more bleeding, which is usually temporary. Even for these triggers, keeping your teeth clear of bacteria will make a huge difference.
  • Medications: Some medications can also affect your gums. Blood thinners obviously lead to more bleeding in general, but blood pressure medications, birth control pills, and even over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen and other NSAIDs can all make your gums bleed.
    Some anti-seizure medications can cause your gums to become overgrown, which can trap plaque and lead to inflammation, which causes your gums to swell even more, and so on in a vicious cycle.
  • Foreign Objects: Foreign objects can also seriously aggravate your gums and cause bleeding. Food debris like a popcorn kernel stuck under your gums or a food trap between your teeth can cause serious inflammation and even life-threatening infections in extreme cases. Old dental work that’s starting to break down can irritate your gums, as can orthodontic appliances.

But no matter what additional triggers you have, one thing stays the same: you can decrease inflammation and bleeding with good home care!

What Should You Do About Bleeding Gums?

When it comes to your oral health, there are some things you can control and some things you can’t. You can’t control your genetics, how your body reacts to bacteria, your stage of life or how your hormones affect your gums.

What you can control is how much bacteria and food debris you allow to build up in your mouth.

The cleaner you keep your teeth and gums, the healthier your gums will be. That doesn’t always mean you’ll have an easy time and perfect gums. But it does mean that good home care and preventive dental care will keep your gums healthier than they would be otherwise.

There are three main things you can do at home:

  1. Brush well for two minutes at a time, at least twice per day. An electric toothbrush can help a lot.
  2. Clean between your teeth at least once per day. Floss is awesome, and a WaterPik is another great addition. It can replace flossing if you absolutely won’t floss, but in a perfect world the combo of regular floss and a WaterPik would be amazing.
  3. Optionally, you can also kill bacteria with an antimicrobial mouthwash.

It’s worth noting that the massage action of your toothbrush and floss also stimulates keratin production, ensuring your gums stay tough and resilient.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet, staying hydrated, and chewing sugar-free gum will also help. Each of those can be an entire article to itself, so stay tuned for details in future posts!

How We Can Help

Preventive dental healthcare is all about keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. Healthy teeth and gums reduce your risks for tons of whole-body health issues.

Oral health also helps you feel great about your smile (and your breath). That means feeling comfortable and confident in social, romantic, and professional situations, which is vital for your psychological wellbeing, too!

Your regular dental cleanings are about more than just polishing up your pearly whites. Your expert dental hygienists at Lake Baldwin Dental will measure and monitor your gums at every visit so we can intervene early if a problem develops, preventing permanent, irreversible damage.

If you’re struggling with gum disease or bleeding gums, let us know! We’re always here to help, judgement-free. Keep smiling, Orlando!

bleeding gums
Bleeding gums can be a major hassle!