Gums

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Gums Bleeding When Flossing
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If you got up from the computer right now and went over to the sink to wash your hands, would you expect them to bleed as  you wash them?

Your Hands Don't Bleed When You Wash ThemIf your hands did start bleeding all over while you were washing them, you’d probably be quite worried.  However, many people simply think it’s alright to get bleeding gums while they brush and floss.

The title of this post asks the question, Is it normal to get bleeding gums when brushing and flossing? The fact of the matter is that while it may be normal (as in it happens to a lot of people) to get bleeding gums, it’s certainly not healthy to get bleeding gums when brushing and flossing.

Why People’s Gums Bleed During Brushing and Flossing

The most common reason that people get bleeding gums when brushing and flossing is because they have plaque that has gotten down between their gums and their teeth that irritates their gums.

To visualize the area between the gums and teeth where this plaque accumulates, read about The Anatomy of a Tooth.  To find out more about what plaque is, read What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.

As the bacteria start accumulating between your teeth and your gums, it irritates the gums and causes the gums to become red and inflamed to try to fight off the bacteria.

The textbook Carranza’s Clinical Periodontology states that “The presence of plaque for only two days can initiate gingival bleeding.” That means that if you neglect brushing or flossing for just two days, it could cause your gums to start bleeding when you begin brushing and flossing.

It is important to note that there are some other reasons that you can get bleeding gums, such as brushing too hard, taking certain medications, or certain systemic conditions.  I’ll talk about those in a future post.  For this article, I am focusing on plaque accumulation, since it is the main reason that patients get bleeding gums.

Bleeding Gums Treatment: How to Make antibiotics Your Gums Stop Bleeding

The only way to get your gums to return to health is to remove the source of the irritation, which is the plaque.  You can do this by brushing and flossing.

Unfortunately, many people stop brushing or flossing when they notice that their gums are bleeding because they assume that they are hurting their gums.  While brushing and flossing too rigorously can hurt your gums, chances are that there is bacteria down between your gums and your teeth that needs to be removed.  Not flossing because your gums bleed will only make the problem worse and could lead you down the path to periodontal disease.

Once you start improving your oral hygiene, your gums should stop bleeding.  The textbook Carranza’s Clinical Periodontology also says, “It may take seven days or more after continued plaque control and treatment to eliminate gingival bleeding.”  That means that your gums should return to health after about a week or so of practicing a good brushing and flossing routine.

If your gums constantly bleed when you brush and floss and it doesn’t go away after a week or so of good oral hygiene, it could be a sign of something more serious and you should ask your doctor or dentist about it.

Conclusion

It is not healthy to have bleeding gums when brushing and flossing.  By brushing and flossing, you can remove the plaque that accumulates between your gums and your teeth, and cause your gums to return to their healthy, pink, non-bleeding state.  It’s a good idea to consult your dentist/dental hygienist to see if you are in need of a deeper gum cleaning (scaling and root planing) to help remove the plaque that has accumulated underneath your gum-line.

Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about bleeding gums?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer any questions that you may have.  Thanks for reading!

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Gum Disease Leads to Tooth Loss
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Man Asking About Tooth LossIf someone asked you what the #1 cause of tooth loss is in people over age 35, what would you guess?

If you’re like most people, you would probably guess that it’s cavities.

Unfortunately…you’d be wrong.

It is generally accepted that the leading cause of tooth loss in people over 35 is periodontitis, more commonly known as gum disease.  In people under 35, cavities are the leading cause of tooth loss.

Teeth are normally held firmly in place under your gums by a strong bone called alveolar bone.

Gum Disease Can Cause You To Lose Your Teeth
©Jun Kawaguchi/Shutterstock.com

You Can Lose Teeth That Are In Perfect Condition

If you’ve brushed your teeth every day of your life and kept them in perfect condition with no cavities, but you’ve never flossed then you might be in trouble.  There are many people who believe that brushing is enough.  But while they are preventing cavities, their lack of flossing is causing other unseen effects on their gums.

Over the years, a lack of flossing will take its toll on your gum health.  Your gums will recede due to the constant irritation they’ve had from bacteria that hasn’t been removed by flossing.  Soon enough, your teeth begin to loosen and can even fall out if your gums are not cared for.

The x-ray below shows two teeth that have lost nearly half of the support from their bony foundation.

Periodontal Disease Associated Bone Loss
The blue lines show the level where the bone should be to provide adequate support to the teeth. The red line shows the current level of the bone. Click on the image for a larger view.

Your Gums Are the Foundation

House FoundationIn a healthy mouth, each tooth in your mouth is firmly gripped by strong, healthy alveolar bone.  Hopefully the building you’re in right now is rooted firmly in the ground by a strong foundation.

Try to imagine a beautiful home anchored firmly on top of a large hill by a strong foundation.  Let’s compare this house to a tooth.

As gingivitis progresses to periodontitis (gum disease), the bone that holds your teeth in place gradually erodes away.  This is similar to hundreds of rainstorms gradually washing away the dirt that surrounds the foundation of a house.

If enough dirt washes away, the house could eventually find itself on unstable ground and fall over.  Even if everything else on the house was in perfect condition, it could still fall.

This is the same in the mouth.  Even if you have a tooth that has never had a cavity, it can fall out due to a lack of support from the alveolar bone.

Conclusion

You now know that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in people over age 35.

One of the best ways to prevent gum disease is to floss daily.  Flossing helps dislodge the bacteria that get stuck down between your teeth and gums.  Ordinary brushing can’t remove these bacteria, only flossing can get rid of them.

Do you have any questions or comments about gum disease?  Leave them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.

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Tips to Get Rid of Gingivitis
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If you’ve noticed that your gums are red and puffy, or that they bleed whenever you brush your teeth, you may have gingivitis.

Toothbrush with ToothpasteGingivitis is defined as an inflammation of the gums without any loss of the attachment to the tooth.  When the gums start to recede from the tooth, gingivitis has advanced to a disease known as periodontitis.  Please note that in this article, I am referring to gingivitis caused by plaque build-up.  There are many other causes of gum enlargement you can read about here.

Luckily, gingivitis is completely curable.  It is important to remember that gingivitis doesn’t just spontaneously occur, it is usually associated with poor oral hygiene.  The secret to curing gingivitis lies in improving oral hygiene.

Four Tips to Cure Gingivitis

1. Brush Your Teeth. Brushing helps remove plaque.  Since most gingivitis is caused by plaque, you can reduce the gingivitis by removing the cause — plaque.  It is a good idea to try to brush twice daily.  If you brush too much, you can end up irritating your gums.

2. Floss Daily. Flossing can remove a lot of the plaque that gets stuck under the gum line.  If you let the plaque grow under the gums, it can really irritate your gums and cause gingivitis.  By removing this sub-gingival plaque, the swelling in your gums will go down.

3. Using an irrigation device such as a WaterPik will drastically reduce gingivitis by flushing the bacteria out of your mouth.  Irrigation devices can reach under the gums and dislodge plaque that might otherwise be inaccessible.  This hard-to-remove plaque is one of the main causes of gingivitis and removing it will greatly improve gingival health.  Many devices provide a pulsating stream of water, which has been shown to be ideal.

Once your gums return to a nice coral-pink color, it is not necessary to use a WaterPik or other irrigation device unless your gingivitis returns.  The main benefit of these irrigation devices is in reducing gingivitis, not maintaining gum health.

4. Use a Mouth Rinse. The book Primary Preventive Dentistry by Norman O. Harris recommends using “over-the-counter products with essential oils, such as Listerine, or dentist prescribed chlorhexidine mouthrinses.”

Many mouth rinses have antibacterial properties that will help your gums return to health.  The best rinse to help fight gingivitis is chlorhexidine (marketed in the USA under the brand name Peridex.)  However, it can sometimes be expensive.  If you are open to trying new things, there have been some studies to suggest that oil pulling may be a cheaper alternative to chlorhexidine in fighting gingivitis.

Good Luck

It is fortunate that gingivitis can be cured.  Unfortunately, after about a month of not brushing, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis which can cause you to lose your teeth.

If you follow the tips above, you should get your gums back to good health in a week or two.

If you have any questions or comments about gingivitis, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

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Swollen Gums
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Throughout your life, you may notice that your gums may sometimes get bigger from time to time.  There are many different reasons that your gums may be enlarged.

While it is widely known that if you don’t brush your teeth and floss regularly, you can develop gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums.  However, there are also many other reasons your gums may be getting bigger.

I mention seven of the more common reasons below, and then in the final paragraph I mention a few more less common causes of gingival (gum) enlargement.

Seven Reasons Your Gums May be Getting Bigger

Gums1 – You Have Gingivitis – Gingivitis is when the gums are overwhelmed by the amount of plaque on the teeth that they become red and puffy to try to fight the bacteria.  Without proper brushing, gingivitis won’t go away.  If you have red and puffy gums, you might want to see your dentist.  Your dentist will be able to prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash that can help reduce the swelling and get your gums back to their healthy coral pink color.

2 – Drugs are Causing Your Gums to Get Bigger – There are several drugs that can cause your gums to get bigger.  This condition is known as drug-induced gingival hyperplasia and can cause your gums to look like they are squeezing out of the spaces between your teeth and growing over your teeth.  There are a few categories of drugs that can cause this:

  • Anticonvulsants.  For example primidone, phenytoin, phenobarbital, topiramate, ethosuximide, valproate, lamotrigine, and vigabatrin.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers.  For example nifedipine and verapamil.
  • Immunosuppresants such as cyclosporine

3 – You Breathe Through Your Mouth A Lot – If find yourself breathing through your mouth very often, you can be irritating your gums.  If you have a stuffed up nose and can only breathe through your mouth, you may notice your gums getting slightly bigger.  It is presumed that since the air you breathe in is drying your gums, they compensate by enlarging the blood supply and getting puffier to ensure that they don’t dry out.

4 – Hormones can make your gums bigger.  Adolescents that are going through puberty are extremely susceptible to gingivitis.  Also, pregnant women are very susceptible to gingivitis due to the high levels of progesterone in their bodies.  Progesterone increases the permeability of the blood vessels in the gums.  Women taking birth control may also notice enlarged gums.

5 – Stress -If you are stressed out a lot, try to reduce it somehow.  If you need some help, here’s a resource to help you reduce stress.

6 – Vitamin C Deficiency – If you aren’t getting enough vitamin C in your diet, your gums can get really puffy and red.  I have seen this, and it’s not very pretty.  You can get vitamin C from most fruits, especially citrus fruits or from a multi-vitamin.

7 – Diseases can cause enlarged gums.  Certain diseases such as diabetes mellitus, leukemia, cancer, sarcoidosis, Wegener’s granulomatosis, and autoimmune diseases can all cause your gums to get bigger.

Conclusion

There are of course other reasons that can cause your gums to get bigger, but they aren’t too common.  For example, if a dentist puts a crown on a tooth and the crown has to go below the gum line, that can cause your gums to get irritated and big.  Heavy metal poisoning, immune disorders, substance abuse, and Down Syndrome are some other causes of bigger gums.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.  Thanks for reading!