Have you ever noticed a pink discoloration on the bristles of your toothbrush when you brush your teeth? A sudden occasional small amount of blood isn’t necessarily cause for concern, but gums that regularly bleed when you brush may indicate the presence of diseases, hormonal changes, changes in medications, or changes in oral hygiene or dietary habits. Here are some common reasons that you can share with your employees why gums may bleed during brushing and what can be done about it.
What Causes Bleeding Gums?
Gums that bleed during brushing are not healthy. There are, however, many possible causes, from temporary ones to others that are more concerning. Below are some typical causes:
Poor dental hygiene. Poor dental hygiene can cause bacteria to build up leading to plaque formation on your teeth. These bacteria can cause inflamed and eventually sore, swollen and bleeding gums, and gingivitis.
Gingivitis. Nearly 65 million Americans over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. If you are not adequately removing plaque on your teeth and gums during daily brushing and flossing, your gums can become inflamed and show signs of gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis may include swollen, soft, tender, or bright red gums that bleed easily during brushing and flossing.
Medications. Certain medicines also increase the chance your gums may bleed. Some over-the-counter and prescription medications can thin your blood or cause dry mouth, which can result in gum bleeding. If that is the case, talk to your physician about prescribing a different dose or medication and to your dentist about why your gums bleed more easily now than in the past.
Flossing. Altering your flossing routine can also cause gums to bleed. For example, if you just started flossing or you haven’t flossed in a few days, you may experience some temporary bleeding.
Brushing. For good oral hygiene, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you switch to a new toothbrush every three to four months. But even switching from a soft-bristled toothbrush to a firmer toothbrush can result in bleeding gums. Brushing too hard and brushing with medium- or hard-bristled toothbrushes can cause enamel erosion and bleeding, irritated gums. Brushing with medium- or hard-bristled toothbrushes is not recommended.
Pregnancy. During pregnancy, hormonal changes can alter a woman’s body, including her gums. The American Pregnancy Association notes that these hormonal changes can modify a woman’s response to oral bacteria and increase blood flow to the gums, causing bleeding during brushing, and result in a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis.
Dental appliances. Incorrectly fitted dental appliances such as braces and partial dentures may irritate the gums and cause bleeding. Also, when there are appliances in the mouth, such as braces, taking much more care with oral hygiene is critical.
The simplest and most effective method of avoiding any dental or gum problem is regular brushing and flossing. The ADA recommends gently flossing at least once per day and brushing twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brush in a circular motion, with the brush at about a 45 degree angle to your teeth and gums. A back-and-forth, sawing movement, which is a common method for many people, can irritate your gum tissues, increasing the risk of bleeding, contribute to gum recession, and unnecessarily wear away your teeth at the gumline.
Additionally, good oral hygiene practices include rinsing your mouth with mouthwash daily and particularly following meals; eating a low-sugar, balanced diet; drinking plenty of water to avoid dry mouth; and visiting your dentist regularly to ensure healthy teeth and gums.
In some cases, occasional bleeding gums may not be a major cause for concern and can be countered by brushing more softly or avoiding brushing in some areas entirely. However, in some cases, this may worsen the problem. Some instances of prolonged gum bleeding may require professional treatment. If your gums bleed, you should make an appointment with your dentist. A dentist can examine teeth and gums and may refer you to a periodontist—a doctor who specializes in treating gum disease—for additional treatment, like a deep cleaning or surgery.
So if you notice your gums bleeding the next time you brush, don’t panic. While bleeding gums are not normal and may require professional treatment, in some cases small changes to your oral hygiene routine and diet, or other changes, may successfully address the condition. Regardless, it is always important to visit a dentist regularly.