Your gums should form a tight seal around your teeth, creating what we call a “collar.” Sometimes, though, you may find that your gums bleed, especially after brushing. There’s a misconception that bleeding gums are a normal part of oral health and that it’s inevitable after cleaning: it’s not. Bleeding gums are actually an indication of disease and something that you’ll want to address as quickly as possible.
The main reason gums bleed has to do with the action of bacteria in the mouth. Harmful bacteria which feed on sugar residues in the mouth build up and churn out dangerous waste products. These waste products then irritate the lining of the gums, causing the body’s defenses to kick into action.
The body only evolved to use these defenses sparingly. It never developed in an environment when they would be required continually. However, inflammatory factors from elsewhere in the body rush to the site of inflammation and, over time, damage the tissue itself.
The plaque that causes the damage is usually invisible. It’s the thin, transparent film which covers the gumline. If you don’t brush your teeth to remove plaque, however, it will harden over time into tartar, which can be damaging, and is visible.
First, good hygiene habits are essential to maintaining dental health, which we’ll discuss next. Regular cleanings and exams will keep gum disease in check. Our hygienists and dentists will examine your teeth for signs of plaque and tartar buildup along the gumline. We may also take x-rays and use other procedures to determine whether the teeth and gums are in good condition.
The second thing to do is to develop a comprehensive oral hygiene routine at home. How you brush your teeth and the type of brush that you use matters a lot when fighting off the bacteria that cause gum disease or gingivitis.
Start by selecting a soft-bristled toothbrush. The soft bristles are vital because they prevent further damage to gums, which could exacerbate gumline recession. Damaged gums tend to recede from the teeth that they surround, exposing more of the teeth, especially the root. This exposure can make you feel more self-conscious when you smile, but it can become uncomfortable and even painful. You may find that you are more sensitive to hot and cold beverages or food.
When you brush, use a small dollop of toothpaste and then brush your teeth and gums all over using a circular motion. Make sure you hit other areas of the mouth too, including the tongue and roof of the mouth.
The bacteria which cause bleeding gums like to hide in the recesses between teeth. Here they’re immune to the action of brushing and can create a foothold that later allows bacteria to spread to the rest of your mouth. Flossing, therefore, is indispensable. It lets you get in between your teeth and scoop out any bacteria and their waste products.
To floss, take 18 inches of floss between your pointer fingers, leaving a two-inch space in the middle. Then slot the floss into the gap between your teeth and begin using a sawing motion. This motion will help to dislodge food particles and bacteria that might have built up in the area, reducing your chances of developing a gum condition.
The primary purpose of mouthwash is to help flush all those nasty bacteria you dislodged with brushing and flossing. Most mouthwash on the market today and available from dentists is antibacterial. It contains a high alcohol content (or another antibacterial agent) that actively kills bacteria in your mouth. The swishing action helps to circulate the bacteria, lifting it from your gums.
You should find that regular brushing, flossing and mouthwash use will help to improve the health of your gums. Over time, you should notice less bleeding while brushing and that your gums become more robust. In more severe cases, your gums will feel less sensitive.
Sugar is at the root of practically all gingivitis. Sugar consumption changes the composition of bacteria in your mouth, promoting the survival of harmful varieties. Without sugar in the diet, people can live relatively gum-disease free, especially if they use fluoride toothpaste. With sugar, however, you’re fighting an uphill battle, even if you brush and floss regularly.
Bleeding gums are, unfortunately, a sign that gum disease could already be present. What you should do depends on the severity of your condition.
Some people develop minor gum disease if they neglect to brush for a couple of days. Usually, resuming regular oral hygiene practices resolves the problem, and gum disease can clear up in less than a week.
More advanced gum disease is not always possible to remedy at home. At our dental practice, we help patients overcome their gum disease using a variety of methods. First, we eliminate the bacteria and plaque that cause the infection in the first place. We also use other techniques, like antibiotics, scaling and laser therapy, to attack bacterial strong points and eliminate them.
Scaling involves removing tartar from the surface of the teeth. Tartar can act as a springboard for more serious periodontal infection below the gumline. We remove all the gunk below the gum line and smooth out the root of the tooth so that it can begin to repair. If you decide to use laser treatment, we target the areas of the gums that are inflamed and use the laser to kill bacteria. Laser therapy does not require an anesthetic.
If you would like to learn more about how to make your gums healthier, get in touch with Dental Partners of Boston today. Here we can help you identify the source of your bleeding gums and bring a variety of techniques to bear to sort them out. Don’t suffer from bleeding gums any longer: Schedule an appointment with us today.
Sergio A. Guzman