Dental Care

Causes of Bleeding Gums

What are the most common causes of bleeding gums?

It is very upsetting to brush or floss your teeth one night and to discover that your gums are bleeding.

Most people automatically assume that there has been some sort of damage to the tissue or to their teeth, but there are several reasons that gums will bleed in the average adult.

The most common causes of gum bleeding include:

  • Brushing – one of the most common of all of the causes of bleeding gums is simply that you are brushing too hard. This may seem like the right thing to do, after all, being aggressive about the removal of plaque and tartar is a wise choice, right? The answer is often “no”. Overly aggressive brushing can actually cause the gums to bleed, and to also recede! This leads to some serious issues including gingivitis and gum disease. If you are a vigorous brusher and your toothpaste is full of abrasive materials, you might also make the matter worse. The solution is to use a gentler hand or a much softer bristle on your brush.
  • Gum disease – this is also one of the most common causes of bleeding gums, and is usually as sign that things are getting a bit out of hand. When you have gingivitis, your gums are going to be tender and a bit swollen. Even a simple touch to the tissue can cause some bleeding, and most often it is during flossing and brushing that someone detects the first signs of trouble. If you notice that your teeth or gums bleed during every brushing or flossing and this doesn't diminish, you need to head to your dental hygienist right away!
  • Drugs – if you are someone who takes oral contraception, uses nasal sprays, and relies on antidepressants or anticoagulants, these may be the causes of your bleeding gums. Before heading into a panic, schedule a visit with your dental hygienist and talk about the medications that you commonly use. Often they will examine your mouth and let you know if there are signs of gum disease or if it is just an unpleasant side effect of the medication you are taking. The key is to address the issue as soon as possible to ensure that it is just the drugs and not an underlying problem.
  • Autoimmune disorders – one of the lesser known causes of bleeding gums is the range of health issues commonly referred to generally as autoimmune disorders. For example, people with Systemic Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Hashimoto's Thyroiditis will also have a tendency to have bleeding gums too. These are not symptoms of the conditions that can be treated with drugs or therapy, but the patient must inform their medical professional and their dentist if the condition worsens or gets to an uncomfortable level. For example, if the gums bleed excessively for a short time after brushing or flossing, it is best to ensure that no gum disease is present as well.
  • Vitamin K – another of the unknown causes of bleeding gums is a deficiency in Vitamin K. This is something that is essential for the body to create blood clots effectively. Simple supplementation or a change in the diet is often a good solution to the issue.
  • Hormonal imbalances – did you know that there are actually “hormonal receptors” embedded in gum tissue? When the levels of hormones in these receptors exceed the normal amounts, this causes a substantial increase of fluid in the tissue, and this is one of the causes of bleeding gums too. There are visual signs of the problem in advance of bleeding, however, and the patient may notice their gums look very red, feel tender, or appear swollen.
  • Smoking – one of the other more familiar causes of bleeding gums is the use of tobacco. Whether someone smokes or chews tobacco is irrelevant, the fact of the matter is that the habit leaves the gums vulnerable. This causes an advanced level of tartar to develop, which leads to gingivitis, and this is the leading cause of gum disease. A smoker may experience heavy bleeding of their gums for many years before developing full blown gum disease, however, because the habit causes the gum tissue to recede and to be chronically irritated and inflamed.
  • Leukemia - one of the least known causes of bleeding gums is the presence of Leukemia cells in the body. This is a cancer of the bone marrow and/or white blood cells, and one of the first signs that a problem is occurring is the appearance of bleeding gums. This is often a way that the condition is diagnosed in children.

Warning Signs

Clearly, there are many causes of bleeding gums and some are far more serious than others. The important thing to remember is that bleeding gums are a warning sign that something is wrong or “off” somewhere in the body.

Because gum disease and loss of gum tissue are also associated with the development of much more serious conditions – including heart disease, stroke and even diabetes, it is best to pay close attention to the signs.

Periodic bleeding of the gums is not something to panic about and may be due to the irritation caused by a new toothpaste, some sort of viral infection or cold that irritates the tissue of the mouth, or even something like bruxism (grinding of the teeth) which compresses the tissue of the mouth and can often cause the gums to be sensitive and to bleed. Though this sort of thing may be unpleasant, it is usually only a temporary issue.

If, however, what starts out as a mild case of bleeding gums during a cold turns into a more serious level of discomfort or bleeding, head to the dentist right away. This is because any sort of chronic irritation in the tissue of the mouth can put the teeth at risk.

This is because the inflammation of gum tissue can allow bacteria to travel up into the root areas of the tooth.

Though a dental hygienist can use the procedure known as root planning to clean an infected tooth, this is not always a “sure thing”, so addressing the issue right away is the best course of action.


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