If you’ve been on this planet long enough, you’ve probably had the shock of noticing that while brushing your teeth, your gums start to bleed. It’s usually not a lot of blood, just a ribbon of red in the sink. But what should you do? Is it cause for alarm or a nuisance you can safely wash down the drain? Well, actually, it’s neither. Think of red in the sink as a warning beacon. You’re probably not in troubled waters yet, but it’s time to make some changes to avoid problems in the future.
What do bleeding gums mean?
A little blood in the sink most commonly means you have gingivitis, or inflamed gums. Your gums are actually pretty delicate, and they live in the mouth where bacteria thrive, so they’re particularly susceptible to infection and damage. When plaque, which is a thin film of bacteria on your teeth, builds up near the gum line, it can cause an infection. The body fights the infection with inflammation, and you get inflamed, bleeding gums, or gingivitis.
Gingivitis, left untreated, could develop into periodontitis, a more serious gum disease that affects 5 to 15% of adults. With periodontitis, the gum pulls away from the tooth allowing for further infection that can eat away your gum and jawbone and loosen teeth. Periodontitis is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.
There are some other, less common causes of bleeding gums. For example, ill-fitting dentures may cause small wounds in the mouth. Or an uneven bite can put excess pressure on the teeth and jawbone breaking down the gums and inviting infection. In rare cases, bleeding gums may result from health problems, such as bleeding disorders, hormonal changes during pregnancy, leukemia, the use of blood thinners or a vitamin K deficiency.
Should you call the dentist?
If your gums bleed just a little and if you’ve seen your dentist in the last 6 months, you can probably avoid more bleeding with proper tooth care at home. However, if you haven’t seen your dentist in the last 6 months, make an appointment for a regular cleaning. Most likely tartar and plaque have built up enough to cause an infection. The dentist will remove the offending tartar and determine whether you need any additional treatment.
In cases where your dentures or an uneven bite might be causing bleeding, contact your dentist for a consult about possible treatment plans. Don’t let these kinds of issues linger because they can do significant damage in your mouth if not corrected. And, if the bleeding continues or worsens, see your doctor right away. It may indicate a more serious condition.
How can you prevent bleeding gums?
As a first step, amp up your dental hygiene routine. Make sure you’re brushing at least twice a day or, if possible, after every meal. Ideally, you should brush for a minimum of two minutes. Flossing also helps remove plaque near the gum line. Many people find that an electric toothbrush and electric flosser make dental hygiene easier. Their high-frequency vibrations stimulate the gums and promote overall mouth health.
Even with the best at-home care, you need to see your dentist every six months for a deep cleaning and removal of any plaque or tartar you may miss. The doctor will also check for signs of gum disease, which could be developing even if you don’t see blood in the sink.
Tobacco and poor diet increase your risk of gingivitis. Here’s another reason to stop smoking and eat well. Make sure you get plenty of vitamin C and calcium from your food. And drink a lot of water, which keeps you hydrated and also helps flush bacteria out of the mouth.
Interestingly, 35% of people have a genetic predisposition to periodontitis, so if it runs in your family, stay alert for any signs of bleeding or inflammation and treat it early.
Your gums are your first line of defense against tooth loss, so if they’re sending you signals that something’s wrong, don’t ignore them. Take steps to fight gingivitis and recruit your dentist’s help. If you’re not sure what to do, call us at Ideal Dental Solutions. We’re here to help you keep your gorgeous smile.