What do Bleeding Gums Mean?

Bleeding gums can have a number of causes. Since these are not always harmless, bleeding gums should not be taken lightly. It is often an early sign of gingivitis. In principle, the following applies: If you constantly struggle with bleeding gums, you should visit a dentist.

  • In the majority of cases, bleeding gums occur as a result of poor dental and oral hygiene, which causes bacterial inflammation.
  • Hormonal changes, an illness, medication or protruding fillings as well as dentures can cause the gums to bleed.
  • If severe bleeding gums occur or other symptoms show up, those affected should see a doctor.

What is bleeding gums?

Bleeding gums means that the gums (gingiva) begin to bleed when touched in different ways. The symptoms can occur, for example, when brushing your teeth or when using dental floss, but can also result from a bite into a crisp apple. If the gums are bleeding, this is in most cases the first symptom of a pathological change in the oral mucosa attached to the tooth.

Causes of Bleeding Gums

Both regular and sudden bleeding gums can have different causes. Often the bleeding can be attributed to inadequate oral hygiene. However, other factors can also play a role. These include in particular:

  • Inflammation caused by bacteria
  • Hormonal changes
  • Diseases
  • Medicines and other active ingredients
  • Protruding filling margins and dentures

Inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria

The most common cause of bleeding gums is inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) . This is usually accompanied by reddened, swollen and sometimes painful gums. Incorrect or inadequate oral or dental hygiene, which allows bacteria to multiply unhindered, can be responsible for this. These tend to accumulate in areas such as the interdental spaces that are difficult to access when brushing. By means of the increased blood flow to the relevant area, the affected person’s body tries to flush out the bacteria.

If the inflammation is left untreated, it can develop into chronic periodontal disease. In this disease, not only the gums but also the gums that hold the teeth are inflamed. In the worst case, the bones break down over time, which in turn can cause the teeth to loosen and fall out.

Hormonal changes as the cause

During puberty, pregnancy and menopause , hormonal changes can lead to bleeding gums. Pregnancy, for example, causes a higher level of estrogen, which leads to increased blood flow to the teeth supporting structures. As a result, the gums are more likely to bleed.

Bleeding due to illness

In some cases bleeding gums are a symptom of the disease. For example, it can occur with the following diseases:

  • Vitamin C deficiency
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hemophilia
  • Functional disorder of the liver
  • leukemia

Medicines and other active ingredients as triggers

Although drugs must undergo numerous tests before they are approved, side effects may occur depending on the drug administered. Bleeding gums can be an undesirable side effect of the following drugs, among others:

  • Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA, blood thinning agent)
  • Phenytoin (anti-epileptic)
  • Oxycodone (pain reliever)
  • Alemtuzumab (drug for multiple sclerosis)
  • Ribavirin (medicine for various viral infections)

Smoking also makes bleeding gums easier. The nicotine contained in cigarette smoke narrows the vessels, which changes the blood flow to the oral tissue.

Defective filling margins and dentures

Sometimes a filling protrudes beyond the boundaries of the tooth. If it presses on the gums in the space to another tooth, irritation occurs at that point. As a result, the tissue often recedes or gum pockets are formed.

People with removable dentures can have a similar problem. If the pressure load is too high, inflammation and bleeding gums are the result. In order to prevent such pressure points, only a minimal adjustment to the denture is usually necessary.

Bleeding gums: when to see a doctor

Basically, you should keep in mind that healthy gums do not bleed easily and, above all, do not bleed regularly. Since inadequate oral hygiene increases the risk significantly, it is helpful to brush your teeth more thoroughly. However, there are also some situations when you should see a dentist right away – for example:

  • if you regularly have profuse bleeding gums
  • if there are visible changes such as swelling or reddening
  • when there is severe pain
  • if you have other symptoms such as a yellow coating on the gums, noticeable bad breath or an increased body temperature
  • if there are general signs of illness

Treatment of bleeding gums

Since the type of therapy depends on the cause of the bleeding gums, the attending physician first inquires about the existing complaints and accompanying circumstances during the patient consultation. To do this, he asks, for example, whether there are illnesses, whether the patient is taking medication or how long the gums have been bleeding for. The dentist then thoroughly examines the oral cavity. With the help of special measuring instruments, for example, he records the depth of the gum pockets and checks whether the gums have receded. The dentist may also take an x-ray of the jaw. Depending on what cause he suspects, further examinations such as a blood test will follow.

If the gum inflammation is minimal, a mouthwash is often the right remedy for bleeding gums. If, on the other hand, there is profuse bleeding gums, the attending doctor usually removes tartar from the teeth and also cleans the teeth and the spaces between the teeth. Sometimes it is necessary to remove inflamed tissue to stop bleeding gums. Periodontitis usually requires special therapy. If, on the other hand, the bleeding gums are a symptom of a disease, the underlying disease must be treated in a targeted manner.

Prevent bleeding gums properly

Ultimately, good dental care and oral hygiene are the best remedies against bleeding gums. If you brush your teeth regularly and properly, you prevent bacterial infections from occurring. In order to effectively prevent bleeding gums, the following measures are particularly recommended:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and use a soft toothbrush
  • Clean the interdental spaces with dental floss or an interdental brush
  • If necessary, stop smoking
  • Go to regular prophylactic examinations
  • Have a professional teeth cleaning carried out twice a year
  • Correct severe misaligned teeth with braces if necessary
  • Avoid sugary foods whenever possible
  • Use special mouthwashes