It’s one of the most frequently asked questions in dentistry. Are bleeding gums normal? According to research, the answer is no. While it may be common, it usually means something isn’t right in your mouth and it’s usually a warning sign for gum disease.
Gingivitis: The First Stage of Gum Disease
One of the most common causes of bleeding gums is gingivitis which is actually the beginning stages of gum disease. Fortunately, if treated, damage is reversible in this early stage according to Dr. John Pappas, DDS, of Arcadia Dental Arts in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Gingivitis occurs when bacteria accumulate on the teeth and gums and cause inflammation,” Pappas said. “The most common cause is poor oral hygiene because once plaque has hardened and turned into tartar it can become difficult and sometimes impossible to remove with just a toothbrush and floss.”
If the gingivitis is left untreated, the tissue and bone surrounding the gums can become infected and it can turn into periodontitis, the next stage of gum disease. During this stage, damage is so severe it is often permanent and can even lead to tooth loss. That’s why Pappas said it’s so important to seek professional dental care as soon as possible.
Other Reasons for Bleeding Gums
If you haven’t flossed in a while and just started making an effort to remember to floss every day, you may notice bleeding as your gums adjust to the new routine. Most people report an improvement after a week of consistent flossing.
Another cause could be the texture of your toothbrush. Did you know toothbrushes come in varying degrees of firmness? Gums are delicate and gentle is always better. Switch to a soft bristled brush if you aren’t using one already and you may see an improvement in your gum health.
Pregnancy is a common time to experience bleeding gums because of what some call “pregnancy gingivitis”. The hormonal changes that take place in a woman’s body when pregnant put them at a higher risk for gum disease and bleeding gums. It’s important to see a dentist during pregnancy to keep teeth and gums in good health as gum disease has been linked to lower birth weights and premature births.
How to Prevent Bleeding Gums
Since bleeding gums are almost always a warning sign of gum disease it’s important to remember what can cause it. Most often gum disease is due to poor oral hygiene as plaque build-up in the mouth and causes inflammation. The best thing you can do to prevent this from happening starts at home. A consistent oral hygiene routine is the key to preventing gum disease according to Pappas.
“In addition to brushing twice a day and flossing, visiting your dentists twice a year for a professional cleaning and exam can go a long way in preventing gum disease,” Pappas said. “During the exam, the dentist is able to spot early warning signs and can begin treatment before things become severe. There’s also a point where plaque becomes tartar and is very difficult to remove at home without the help of professional tools and equipment.”
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