Why do my Gums Bleed when I Floss?
Oral Health

Why do my Gums Bleed when I Floss?

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Bleeding gums could mean you need to floss more often, or they might be a sign of a more serious problem.

3-minute read

Do your gums bleed when you floss your teeth? Gums can bleed for different reasons, but if they bleed regularly, or you have other possible warning signs of a problem, you should make an appointment with a dentist.

Your dentist will determine the reason why your gums are bleeding and discuss ways to stop the bleeding and address any underlying problems. Here are the common reasons why gums may bleed when flossing and how this may be prevented.

 

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First-time or infrequent flossing

Bleeding gums are more likely to happen if you're not a regular flosser. When gums are not used to the sensation of flossing, they may feel itchy, sore or bleed in certain areas. This type of bleeding normally stops within a few minutes and should stop happening within the first week of a daily flossing routine.

 

Improper flossing or brushing

If you are a regular flosser, bleeding gums could be a sign that you're flossing or brushing your teeth too roughly. Cleaning your teeth should be a gentle process, using soft floss and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brushing and flossing harder doesn't remove more plaque, but it can lead to irritation, bleeding, or even permanent damage to gums and tooth enamel.

Toothbrush heads typically need replacing every 3 months, if you're replacing them sooner because of frayed bristles, it could be a sign that you're brushing too hard.

 

Gum disease

Bleeding gums are a common sign of gum disease (periodontal disease), especially if you have other symptoms such as inflamed, red or tender gums. Gum disease is caused by plaque and tartar that build up on the teeth around the gumline. It may be treated by improving your oral hygiene and seeing a dentist or hygienist for gum disease treatment.

 

Nutritional deficiencies

If your diet is low in vitamin C or vitamin K, you are more likely to have bleeding gums. Vitamin C helps to repair damaged gum tissue, while vitamin K helps with blood clotting. Both vitamins are also important for building healthy teeth and bones.

 

Hormonal changes

The influx of hormones during times such as pregnancy, puberty and menopause can result in bleeding gums for some women by increasing blood flow to the gums and affecting the body's immune response to bacteria in plaque. Bleeding gums have also been linked with stress.

 

Medical conditions and medications

Some underlying medical conditions may cause gums to bleed, including diabetes and autoimmune diseases. It may also be a side effect of certain medications, such as blood-thinning medications. Your dentist will check your medical history and may consult with your doctor to discuss treatment options.

 

Trauma or dental treatments

Gums may bleed temporarily while you're having teeth professionally cleaned or if your mouth is injured or following a dental procedure, such as root canal therapy, extracting a tooth or placing a dental implant. Bleeding can normally be managed by applying pressure to the site for up to 30 minutes. If bleeding continues, or you have any other symptoms that need attention, contact an emergency dentist.

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How to stop gums from bleeding when flossing

Not flossing because you're worried about bleeding gums can make underlying oral health problems worse. Flossing is an important part of daily oral care, as it cleans the surfaces between your teeth and around your gums that your toothbrush can't reach. If you don't floss, bacteria and leftover food can build up on these surfaces, leading to problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Bleeding gums when flossing can usually be prevented by improving your oral hygiene routine, lowering your risk factors for gum disease or treating an underlying problem. Your dentist will recommend which approaches are most appropriate for you.

 

Improving your flossing technique

If your dentist or hygienist thinks you might be flossing too roughly, or not enough, they will discuss your flossing method and demonstrate how to floss correctly. Flossing should be done at least once a day, before or after brushing.

To floss correctly using standard dental floss:

  • Pull off between 30cm and 45cm of floss and wind it around the middle fingers of both hands
  • Holding a length of floss between your thumbs and index fingers, gently slide it between two teeth
  • Gently clean up and down the sides of each tooth and tuck the floss slightly under the gum line
  • Move to a new section of floss and repeat for all of your teeth, discarding the floss after use

 

Trying a floss alternative

If you find flossing uncomfortable or difficult, your dentist might recommend alternatives to traditional floss that can be gentler or easier to use. These include:

  • Dental tape – a thicker style of dental floss that is gentler on gums
  • Pre-threaded flosser – disposable floss holders that can make flossing easier for beginners
  • Interdental brush – fine brushes for cleaning between the teeth
  • Water flosser – a hand-held appliance that directs a jet of water at teeth

There are a few sustainable options on the market to help you reduce plastic waste, including reusable silicone floss and biodegradable floss made of bamboo, beeswax or silk.

Steer clear of metal floss and avoid using toothpicks or sharp objects to clean between your teeth or remove trapped food, as these can damage your teeth or gums.

 

Improving your oral hygiene

Besides flossing, regular toothbrushing is important for keeping plaque at bay and preventing gum disease. Toothbrushing should be done at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush.

If you have sensitive teeth or gums, your dentist may recommend using a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. They may also recommend a mouthwash if you need to reduce bacteria in your mouth.

 

Treating gum disease

If your dentist diagnoses gum disease, their treatment recommendations will depend on how far the disease has advanced.

 

  • Gingivitis is the mild form of gum disease and is usually reversible with good daily oral care and professional hygiene treatments at a dental clinic.
  • Periodontitis is the more severe form of gum disease that requires more intensive periodontal treatment. This can involve scaling and root planing to remove hardened plaque and tartar from under the gumline, removing infected pockets and treatments to restore lost gum or bone tissue.

 

Lowering your risk factors

Bleeding gums or gum disease may also be prevented by managing the risk factors in your control. This could involve:

  • Eating more foods rich in vitamin C and K or taking supplements
  • Quitting smoking
  • Trying to avoid stress
  • Talking to your doctor about treating a medical condition or changing medications
  • Wearing a sports mouthguard to prevent injuries to the teeth and gums
  • Visiting the dental clinic every 6 months for a check-up and hygiene treatments. Your dentist may recommend more frequent visits if you need to improve your oral health.

 

See a dentist in East Victoria Park

If you're concerned about your teeth or gums, call our team at EVP Dental for advice or to book an appointment with our experienced dentists. Call us now on (08) 9470 3944 or book online.

 

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References

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-bleeding-gums
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003062.htm
  3. https://www.teeth.org.au/flossing