There is a common misconception that it is normal for gums to bleed during flossing and brushing. This is false, and ignoring bleeding gums is a good way to end up with much more serious symptoms. It is normal for gums to bleed after you’ve started a new flossing or brushing routine, but only for a week or so. If your gums continue to bleed after daily flossing, this is a sign of gingivitis.
Gingivitis is the first and least severe stage of gum disease. Its only real danger is that it will continue to develop. If left untreated, gingivitis can become periodontitis. Periodontitis literally means “inflammation around the tooth” and happens when gums pull apart from teeth, creating “pockets” that harbor bacteria. This can lead to tissue damage, bone damage, and ultimately tooth loss. Individuals without a consistent oral hygiene habit will usually develop gingivitis. Of those who advance to more serious stages of periodontal disease, 70% will develop a chronic version of the disease, which will get worse with age.
Plaque is the main cause of gingivitis and requires a daily dental routine and regular checkups to keep it at bay. Whether or not your gums bleed when you floss or brush, scheduling a dental checkup every six months is the surest way to identify gum disease early on. These visits give your dentist the chance to do an oral examination and determine if there are signs of gingivitis. They also allow for regular cleanings by a hygienist who will remove plaque buildup that forms under your gums and tartar that has hardened on your teeth. Routine check ups do not replace daily oral hygiene; instead, they clean the areas that your toothbrush and floss cannot reach. A dental hygienist is specially trained to identify and safely remove tartar and plaque.
Brushing your teeth twice a day should be an automatic part of your daily routine. If it isn’t already, start today! Be sure to use a soft bristled toothbrush to avoid causing gum recession from brushing too hard. Brush in a circular motion for 2 minutes, spending an equal amount of time in each part of the mouth. After brushing has removed superficial food debris, floss. Flossing once a day is sufficient but be sure to floss every gap. To avoid damaging your gums, follow the curve of your teeth.
The sooner you get professional help with the symptoms of gum disease, the less damage that disease will do to your mouth. If you have reached the advanced stages of gum disease, there is still time to fix the damage! Scaling and root planing are common procedures that dentists use to treat periodontitis. Scaling is a process that removes tartar buildup from under the gum line and from teeth. Root planing involves meticulously cleaning root surfaces to get rid of plaque build up. This will remove the bacteria or plaque that caused the gum disease in the first place, giving your gums a chance to heal.
Gingivitis may not always be the cause of bleeding gums. If you are on a new medication and have consistent bleeding, consult your physician. Sometimes pregnancy causes “pregnancy gingivitis” due to hormone changes that cause greater sensitivity to plaque bacteria. These bacteria can create gum inflammation during pregnancy. Consistent dental hygiene habits and at least one dental appointment while pregnant can help diminish the effects of pregnancy gingivitis.
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