Seeing blood on you or your child’s toothbrush can be an alarming sign. Even if it is a small amount of blood, or it just happens sporadically, it’s still natural to wonder why this is happening and what to do about it.
There can be a range of causes for bleeding gums when you brush your teeth, from the way you brush to a problem with your gums that needs treatment. By learning more about your gums and the potential causes of bleeding, you can have the information you need to make a confident decision.
Anatomy of Your Gums
Known as the gingiva, the gums are part of the soft tissue lining the mouth. Their job is to protect and seal the base of the teeth. Healthy gums should have a pinkish color and not be too sensitive to food and temperatures they are exposed to.
Like the teeth, the gums are vulnerable to inflammation and infection by bacteria and plaque buildup in the mouth that can come from poor oral hygiene and dietary choices, such as excessive sugar. These and other factors can lead to an increased risk of problems that include bleeding from the gums.
7 Reasons Why You or Your Child’s Gums May Be Bleeding
It is possible for otherwise healthy gums to bleed during brushing, particularly due to certain habits, but it can also be a sign of a more serious underlying problem. Here are some very common reasons for the gums to bleed while brushing.
1. You’re Brushing Too Hard
Brushing is an extremely important part of proper care for your gums. But any dentist will tell you that you should not be brushing your teeth like you are scrubbing pots and pans. If your gums are bleeding after brushing but they seem healthy otherwise, it could be a sign that you are brushing too hard.
Brush at a 45 degree angle to your gums and use a gentle, back-and-forth circular motion on every part of your teeth for two minutes, twice a day. Brushing too often or for too long can also increase the wear on your gums.
2. Your Toothbrush is Too Rough
Especially for children, but also many adults, dentists recommend using a brush with softer bristles. Even if you are brushing correctly, hard bristled brushes can be too abrasive and cause healthy gums to bleed. You should also replace your toothbrush every three to four months to keep it safe and sanitary for your gums.
3. You Haven’t Been Flossing and You Just Started
Flossing is extremely good for your teeth and gums because it removes the plaque and food particles that cause gum disease and tooth decay. If it has been awhile since you had a regular flossing routine, it may be rough on your gums and cause some minor bleeding. As long as your gums are otherwise healthy, the bleeding should subside after a few days. If you have really sensitive gums, you may want to consider an alternative such as a water flosser, also known as a Waterpik.
4. Vitamin C or Vitamin K Deficiency
Bleeding gums could be a sign of a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin C is essential for strong bones and healing wounds. Vitamin K helps the blood to clot properly. Having too little of either or both could cause the gums to bleed when there isn’t anything else wrong.
You can increase the levels of these vitamins by taking supplements or eating foods rich in vitamin C or K. Citrus, berries, leafy greens, and broccoli are great sources of vitamin C, while leafy greens, avocados, nuts, and canola oil all have plenty of vitamin K.
Bleeding gums can be a common sign of the gum disease gingivitis. This disease is caused by inflammation of the gums resulting from buildup of bacteria and plaque. Other signs of gingivitis include red and swollen gums and increased sensitivity and irritation when eating or drinking.
Gingivitis and gum disease are technically considered to be contagious by the American Dental Association. This is because the bacteria that lead to infection of the gums and eventually gum disease can be spread through saliva. Gingivitis is a relatively mild gum disease and the early stages of more serious conditions like periodontitis. Dentists usually recommend countering gingivitis with special mouthwashes, regular brushing and flushing, and a healthy diet.
If gingivitis goes untreated it can lead to more serious conditions such as periodontitis. Periodontitis begins to cause damage to the soft tissue and bones of the teeth in addition to the inflammation and irritation of early gum disease. Along with bleeding, the gums can actually begin to pull away from the teeth, and you may experience bad breath, and loose teeth. In the worst cases, periodontitis can cause infection, tooth loss, and other serious problems that may require oral surgery.
7. A Medical Condition that Requires Attention
In rarer cases, bleeding gums after brushing can be related to certain medical conditions that require the attention of a doctor. For example, diabetes can make the mouth less able to fight infection, leading to increased inflammation and bleeding. Other conditions such as hemophilia that interfere with blood clotting can cause the gums to bleed after very minor cuts and scrapes.
If you have ruled out other causes and your gums frequently bleed after brushing, see a doctor for a full physical evaluation and diagnosis.
When In Doubt, See a Dentist
Along with good oral hygiene and healthy eating, regular dental visits help prevent gum problems from getting worse. With regular dental examinations and gum measurements, you or your child’s dentist can spot early warning signs and help you take appropriate steps. If you have more advanced gum disease, your dentist can refer you to a specialist, or take appropriate treatment measures to help limit damage and prevent more serious health conditions.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!