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14 June 2024

Why do my gums bleed when I brush my teeth?

Ever spat out your toothpaste to see blood in the sink?

Find out what causes bleeding gums – and how to prevent it

Bleeding gums when brushing your teeth is really common, but while it can be caused by something as simple as poor brushing technique, it can also be an indication of something more serious, like gum disease.

Over half of the UK’s population have some degree of gum disease, but many of us shrug it off as not particularly important. We chatted to Dr Mani Bhardwaj from The Smile Studios Dental Group, who told us why it’s so important to take notice of your bleeding gums, and what might be causing it to happen.

Why do my gums bleed when I brush my teeth?

“There are many reasons why your gums might bleed when brushing your teeth,” Dr Mani tells us. Gum tissue is pretty delicate, so a stab of a toothpick can easily lead to blood. “Perhaps you’ve just started a flossing routine and your gums haven’t adjusted yet, or you’re taking certain medications, such as blood thinners.”

Your gums can also bleed as a result of not brushing your teeth often enough, excessive brushing (too many times in a day) and using a hard-bristled toothbrush. Add using excessive pressure or force while brushing, and you’re easily in bleeding gums territory.

Other causes of bleeding gums can include:

  • Certain medications: Blood thinners such as aspirin can leave users prone to increased bleeding and bruising.
  • Pregnancy: Increased hormones can stimulate more blood flow to the gums, and morning sickness can cause bleeding gums, too.
  • Poorly fitted braces or dentures.
  • Quitting smoking: The nicotine in cigarettes can restrict blood flow to the mouth, so when you give up smoking and your circulation improves it can cause bleeding gums.

Unfortunately, it’s not too easy to distinguish between these types of causes and the more serious possibilities.

Are my bleeding gums a sign of something serious?

“Bleeding gums could well be a sign of gingivitis,” Dr Mani says “This is where gums are inflamed, so they react to the brushing action as if it’s a trauma – thus causing them to bleed.”

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease, and it occurs due to a buildup of plaque and bacteria on your teeth and gums. When plaque isn’t removed regularly from the surface of your teeth, it builds up into a sticky film. Eventually, this plaque hardens into tartar: it’s then much harder to remove and usually needs assistance from a dental professional.

When it’s not removed, the buildup of plaque irritates the gumline and causes inflammation and sensitivity, often resulting in bleeding while you’re brushing your teeth. If you’re experiencing sensitivity or tender gums, irritation or spitting blood, these symptoms all point to the early stages of gum disease.

So while bleeding gums isn’t necessarily a serious issue on its own, it’s likely that without professional attention and proper treatment it will progress to something more serious.

Is it normal for my gums to bleed?

It’s not normal for your gums to bleed when brushing your teeth, but it’s still a pretty common occurrence.

“If you are noticing blood when you brush your teeth, whether occasionally or frequently, you should never ignore it,” – says Dr Mani, adding that you should consult your dentist as soon as possible about bleeding gums.

How can prevent my gums from bleeding again in future?

If you’re experiencing bleeding gums, first and foremost speak to a dentist. Maintaining regular dental check-ups and cleaning will prevent, and ultimately treat, gum disease.

Once you’ve sought professional help, you can rinse your mouth out with warm salt water and/or use antibacterial mouthwash; these can help to reduce the prevalence of bacteria and should help stop the bleeding.

Luckily there are plenty of ways to protect against bleeding gums in the long term, such as brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily with either regular floss or interdental brushes.

Using an electric toothbrush can help with maintaining a more even pressure on your teeth and gums, or you can use a manual brush with soft bristles while your gums are still sensitive or sore.

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