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enlarged 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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Flossing Mistakes
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It seems so simple to just slide some string between your teeth to clean those hard-to-reach areas.  While the idea is simple, there are a few techniques that you need to master in order to maximize the return on the time you spend flossing.

Here are ten common mistakes that people make when they floss:

10 Common Flossing Mistakes

1 – Not Flossing the Sides of Both Teeth

Flossing MistakesIf you just slide the floss down, and then pull it up, you are only getting 50% of the job done.  When you move the floss up between two teeth, you need to make sure that you are cleaning the side of both teeth.  One of the favorite places for plaque to hide is between teeth. If you’re only removing plaque from the side of one of the teeth, you could easily get a cavity on the tooth that you’re not flossing.

Find out about six common places where you are most likely to get cavities.

2 – Using the Same Section of Floss Between All of Your Teeth

When you floss you are removing bacteria from between your teeth and below the gum-line.  If you use the same section of floss for all of the teeth in your mouth, you are spreading around a lot of bacteria.  Of course you still are loosening the plaque, which has its benefits, but if you use a new section of floss each time you floss between two teeth, you will be loosening the plaque without putting plaque that you’ve already removed back in between your teeth.

3 – Snapping the Floss Down Hard Between Your Teeth

To get the floss to go between a tight contact between two adjacent teeth, try working the floss back and forth applying a firm but controlled downward pressure.

Snapping the floss down between the teeth can not only injure your gums in the short-term, but the trauma can cause your gums to recede.  Do it enough, and you’ll cause gum disease.

4 – Not Flossing Behind the Very Back Teeth

Even though there isn’t a tooth next to it, it is still important to clean behind the four teeth that are all the way in the back of your mouth (two teeth on each side in the upper and lower jaws.)  This can help remove bacteria that has made its way  between your tooth and gums.

5 – Flossing Aimlessly Without a Plan

When you floss, you need to have a road-map of what order you are going to floss your teeth in, or you can quickly become confused and miss some teeth or even a quadrant of your mouth.  It may be easiest to start in the upper right and go to the upper left, then come down to the lower teeth in the bottom left and move across to the bottom right.

However, as long as you have a plan, it really doesn’t matter which teeth you floss first.  Personally, I start right in the middle of my upper teeth and work my way back on one side and then on the other.  Then I do the same thing on the lower teeth.  Just find a “floss order” that works for you and stick to it so that you don’t forget to floss any teeth.

Dental Floss

6 – Not Flossing Around Dental Appliances

Many people don’t know that if they have fixed dental appliances in their mouth, they need to floss around them.  For example, if you have a bridge, it is necessary to use a floss threader, or get something similar to Oral-B Superfloss.

I had braces on my lower teeth when I was a teenager.  After I had them removed, the orthodontist cemented a wire that connects to each of my six lower front teeth.  This stabilizes them, but also makes it impossible to use conventional floss due to the wire.  Because of this, I have to use Superfloss or floss threaders to get under the wire so I can floss and maintain my gum health.

7 – Quitting When Your Gums Bleed

Blood may scare some people when they floss because they think that they are hurting their gums if they bleed.  You are not hurting them as long as you’re not flossing too hard (see mistake #3.)

Most likely, the reason they bleed is because they haven’t been flossed in a while and the gum tissue has become red and inflamed.  This is a condition known as gingivitis and it occurs because the body is sending more blood to the gum.  This is to help the tissue fight all of the plaque that is accumulating.  When you floss, you are removing that plaque, and since the tissue is inflamed and engorged with blood, you are causing some of the blood to leak out.  After a few days, your gums should return to health and you can floss normally without any bleeding.

8 – Not Spending Enough Time With Your Floss

Most people have 28 teeth if they’ve had their wisdom teeth extracted.  When you floss, you need to get both sides of the teeth (even the most posterior teeth – see mistake #4.)  That means that there are 56 sides that you need to get.  You should be spending a couple of seconds with each side, scraping up and down against the tooth a few times before moving onto the next surface.  That means that it will probably take you around two minutes to floss your entire mouth if you have a full set of teeth.

9 – Not Applying Pressure to the Tooth Surface

When you floss, you want to be careful to avoid using too much downward pressure so you don’t damage your gums.  However, when you are flossing against the side of a tooth, you want to make sure that you are pushing the floss against the tooth surface enough to be able to remove the plaque.

10 – Only Using Floss to Remove Food

Unfortunately, lots of people think that the only reason for flossing is to remove food that has gotten wedged between their teeth. I think many people end up doing this because they can see the food between their teeth — they can’t see the plaque.  An easy solution to this problem is to use a plaque disclosing tablet/solution to visualize the plaque on your teeth.

When you floss, your primary goal should be to scrape against each tooth to remove as much plaque as you can.  As long as you are doing this, you should be getting rid of the food between your teeth without even thinking about it.

Floss Correctly and Keep Your Teeth For Your Whole Life

By avoiding these ten common mistakes, you will be able floss more efficiently which will lead to greater oral health.  Since many cavities start out between two teeth, you will be able to prevent many cavities by regularly flossing and avoiding these ten flossing mistakes.

Do you have any questions or comments about flossing?  I’d love to hear them!  Just leave them below in the comments section.

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Swollen Gums
©Botazsolti/Shutterstock.com

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!