Why Do My Gums Bleed When I Brush My Teeth?

Nov 02, 2023
Why Do My Gums Bleed When I Brush My Teeth?
Bleeding gums affect 3% of school-age children and nearly half of adults over 40. At any age, you should never wait to seek treatment. Bleeding after brushing is the first sign of gum disease, but it can also signal other health problems.

If you see a little blood in the sink after brushing, would you be tempted to ignore it and hope it goes away? The problem with that approach is that the bleeding could temporarily stop, but that doesn’t mean the underlying condition has healed.

And if you’re thinking about ignoring it, remember that your chances of having gum disease are high. Nearly half of adults over 40 have gum disease, the top cause of bleeding when brushing.

At Fremaux Dental Care, Britney Beard, DDS, encourages you not to wait. Gum disease is easy to treat at an early stage, and with preventive dentistry, you can keep your gums healthy for the long run.

But you also shouldn’t put off dental care because we need to either confirm or rule out gum disease. If it’s not a dental problem, you may have another health condition that causes gum bleeding.

Here’s what you need to know about the top three causes of bleeding gums:

Vigorous brushing and flossing

The cause of bleeding may be as simple as using a brush with bristles that are too hard and injuring your gums. Or you may brush with too much pressure. Vigorous flossing or not flossing for a while and starting again can also make your gums bleed.

Gum disease (periodontal disease)

Gum disease is the most common cause of bleeding gums. In fact, seeing blood while brushing is often the earliest sign that you have a gum infection.

Gum infections don’t suddenly appear. Instead, they develop in the following steps:

Step 1: Plaque

All carbohydrates, whether sweets, rice, potatoes, bread, or other foods, contain sugar. Inside your mouth, sugar combines with saliva and bacteria, creating a sticky substance called plaque.

Plaque sticks to your teeth, holding bacteria and sugar against the enamel and gums.

Brushing and flossing removes most or all of the plaque, dramatically lowering your risk for a gum infection. Infrequent or inefficient brushing lets plaque stay on your teeth, leading to the next step.

Step 2: Tartar

Within a few days, plaque hardens into tartar. Tartar is hard and sticks firmly to your teeth. As a result, you can’t get rid of it with brushing. We use special tools to remove tartar during your six-month checkup.

The problem with tartar is that it contains live bacteria, giving the microorganisms time to erode enamel, invade gums, and cause gum disease.

Step 3: Gum disease (gingivitis)

Bacteria invading your gums cause inflammation, and an infection develops, signaling the start of gum disease. At this stage, your gums may bleed when brushing. They may also appear red and swollen, depending on the severity of the infection.

Seeking treatment as soon as you see blood prevents gingivitis from turning into a more severe gum problem.

Step 4: Periodontal disease

Ignoring bleeding gums and not getting treatment allows the infection to turn into periodontal disease, an advanced form of gum disease. Periodontitis (severe gum inflammation) causes:

  • Gum damage (the tissues break down and weaken)
  • Pocket around the tooth (gums pull away from the tooth)
  • Jawbone erosion (inflammation breaks down the bone)
  • Weak periodontal ligaments (these ligaments hold your tooth in place)

These changes ultimately lead to tooth loss as the supporting structures weaken.

Nondental causes of gum bleeding

Gums that bleed are symptoms of other health conditions. But you should still schedule a dental checkup so we can rule out gum disease. Additional causes of bleeding gums include:

Vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin C is essential for healing wounds and producing and maintaining collagen, the connective tissue that holds your body together. Collagen is essential for strong skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, and gums (to name a few).

If you don’t get enough vitamin C, you develop signs like bleeding gums, swollen gums, tiredness, and muscle aches and weakness.

Health conditions

Many health conditions can make your gums bleed. Here are a few examples:

  • Diabetes
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Oral herpes
  • Hemophilia (blood clotting disorder)
  • Leukemia (cancer of the bone marrow and lymph system)
  • Hormone changes (during pregnancy, menopause, and puberty)

Cancer treatments often cause problems in your gums and mouth, making it hard to eat, swallow, and talk.

If you notice blood after brushing or flossing, don’t wait to schedule a dental checkup. Call Fremaux Dental Care today, send a message online, or use online booking to request an appointment.