What are bleeding gums?
Bleeding gums are very common, in fact they are one of our most common complaints. Bleeding gums can be a symptom of a number of issues, some of them quite serious. The vast vast vast majority however are simply down to the oral hygiene not being up to scratch. Regardless, the safest thing to do is see a dentist and get some professional advice.Come and see our Maroubra dental team, if you’re having issues with bleeding gums- we’ll do all we can to solve the problem.
Why do I have swollen gums?
Bleeding gums are usually a cause of improper oral hygiene. As plaque is inadequately removed from the teeth and the gum line, it causes the gums to be inflamed—a condition called gingivitis. Over time, this plaque will harden forming calculus (like the build up most people get behind their front teeth. This attracts more plaque and the process continues. If left, this can lead to a more advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis. Since there can be a lot of causes for bleeding gums, let’s categorise them for easy reference. Sorry, but some of the items listed may cause you to worry:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Not brushing enough
- Brushing too hard
- Improper flossing
- Abnormal bite (crooked or malpositioned teeth)
- Clenching or grinding teeth
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Receding gums
- Deep pockets between teeth and gums
- Ill-fitting dentures
- Vitamin C deficiency
- Vitamin K deficiency
Bleeding gums may be a side effect of some more serious conditions. We have chosen not to list them because if you have other signs and symptoms that are more distinctive you will need to be diagnosed by your doctor.
Changes in your body’s chemistry can or may increase bleeding; generally they do not cause it, merely exaggerate the response of the dental causes:
- Hormonal changes
- Oral contraceptives
Some medications can also cause an increase in bleeding- again it is most likely an exaggerated response to a dental cause.
- Anticoagulants such as warfarin
- Antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin and clopidogrel
- Certain epilepsy, convulsion and seizure medications
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Immunosuppressant drugs
- Certain heart medications
Smoking actually reduces bleeding gums as the nicotine causes the blood vessels in the gums to constrict. No- that’s not an excuse to do it! The underlying damage is still occurring just the symptoms to demonstrate it are being masked- so more damage often results, because you have less indication if there is a problem. If you stop smoking, expect your gums to bleed a lot, this is just your body’s response returning to normal. Keep going and stick with it, it can take a couple of weeks to calm down but don’t let that put you off – kick that habit!
Are there other symptoms I should look out for?
Other signs and symptoms you may notice which will mean it is important to see a dentist include:
- Bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
- Bright red or red-purple gums
- Tender gums
- Mouth sores
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Swollen or inflamed gums
Seek immediate medical attention if you happen to be bleeding anywhere else on your body. Bleeding gums may not be painful initially, but they can be a sign of more serious gum disease going on underneath. If this is left untreated, significant irreversible damage may occur over time which can lead to pain, moving teeth and teeth needing to be extracted (late stage gum disease). Remember, it is far easier to treat a condition while still in its early stages.
What happens when I go to the dentist?
To assess the underlying condition, your dentist will have to ask you questions about your bleeding gums and oral hygiene. You may also be asked about your diet, if you’re taking any medication, whether you’re undergoing hormonal changes (extra bleeding during pregnancy is quite common) and whether you have symptoms other than the bleeding gums. Your dentist may also ask to take an X-ray of your teeth and jawbone to assess your condition further. Diagnostic tests such as Complete Blood Count (CBC) or blood differential may also be investigated later but only after you have proved an excellent level of oral hygiene for a short period to rule out the simplest and most common causes. If your dentist determines that gum disease could be the cause of your bleeding gums, he or she can provide a professional teeth cleaning to remove plaque and calculus build up. They will also give you instructions on how to properly take care of your gums and teeth at home. You may see a hygienist to do this. If the gum disease is more advanced- treatments such as root planing and deep scaling will be required in addition- to help clean under the gum where the toothbrush can’t reach. Medications may also be prescribed to help fight oral bacteria. Very loose teeth causing pain are almost impossible to save and will require extraction and then filling the gap.
What home treatments can I do for my bleeding gums?
Because the cause is unknown you should arrange a visit to see your dentist in Maroubra. If gingivitis is suspected- it’s all down to improving the hygiene and removing the plaque with proper brushing, flossing and pixters (if they fit). Because harder deposits are often present that you can’t remove, a visit to the dentist is necessary anyway. Here’s a couple of suggestions that may also help:
- You may also rub some clove oil on the affected area.
- Rinsing with a saline solution every morning.
- To kill the bacteria in your mouth, add 1 to 2 drops of tea tree oil into lukewarm water and gargle with it.
- Oil pulling with coconut oil to remove bacteria and impurities.
- Massaging aloe vera into the gums is also very effective against inflamed gums and can help speed up the healing process.
A common misconception about bleeding gums is that if you cut back on brushing and flossing, the inflammation on your gums will eventually die down. However, doing so will only cause more plaque build up and therefore worsen the problem. Brush twice a day and floss in the evening before brushing, to remove food debris that is stuck in your teeth and gums. Make sure you do this gently and carefully to avoid further irritating the gums. Proper technique is important.
How can I prevent bleeding gums?
Now that your bleeding gums are under control, there are a few steps to keep things this way:
- Maintain good dental hygiene and have a professional and thorough cleaning by your Maroubra dentist twice a year. This will prevent gingivitis from occurring as your dentist can regularly check up on your oral health, give you pointers and clean away any build up on your teeth and gums.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash to lessen the plaque build up. (Do not rely on this alone!)
- Use a soft- medium toothbrush. Also, make sure to use gentle, circular motions when brushing.
- Brush your tongue (this is a major breeding ground for bacteria).
- Floss daily (before brushing your teeth). Do so carefully and gently slide the floss up and down between your teeth in a wiping motion to remove hard-to-reach plaque.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of Vitamins C, K, and calcium. Eating lots of whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and dairy products (for those lactose tolerant).
- Drink plenty of water after eating to help wash food off your teeth.
- Try to de-stress and relax to avoid raising the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone that increases the likelihood of inflammation) in your body.
- If you have an abnormal bite (crooked or misaligned teeth), see your orthodontist to correct the problem. This will keep food debris from getting stuck between the teeth.
- If your dentures do not fit correctly, make sure you get them adjusted to prevent them causing problems.
- If you clench or grind your teeth, especially during sleep, make sure to use a mouthguard from your dentist
What to avoid:
- Cutting back on brushing and flossing, especially when you have bleeding or inflamed gums.
- Using mouthwash that has alcohol. This can dry your mouth and aggravate the problem.
- Brushing using a back-and-forth motion. This irritates and damages the gums further.
- Brushing your teeth too hard (scrubbing!)
- Forcing the floss too far down into the gum.
- Eating lots of sugary foods or processed carbohydrates (causes an increase in plaque as these are their foods!)