After brushing your teeth, how many times have you looked in the sink a seen a little blood? If we’re being truthful, this has happened to most people many times.
The sight of blood might not raise alarms since it’s so common, and many people may ignore the issue simply because it doesn’t seem like an emergency concern.
When you do see blood, does that always mean there’s an issue like gingivitis, or could it be a fluke from brushing too hard? Whatever the cause, it’s probably not a big deal, right?
All blood doesn’t automatically indicate a serious issue, but it does serve as a good reminder to take a close look at your oral health routine and examine any other health issues you might be experiencing. If you do see red next time you brush your teeth, bear in mind the health issue below to understand what might have spurred it. Also, remember to talk to your dentist if the bleeding comes on unexpectedly or prolifically, or accompanies with pain.
On the more serious end of the spectrum, bleeding gums can be a sign of gingivitis. This common form of gum of disease causes redness and swelling in the gums around the base of the teeth.
While the initial onset on gingivitis can be mild, it can also progress to more serious issues—including tooth loss.
Causes of gingivitis
Gingivitis is most commonly caused by poor oral hygiene, generally meaning a patient isn’t flossing and brushing twice a day. When you don’t brush your teeth, plaque forms on them and is left to harden into tartar. This tartar attracts additional bad bacteria that cause oral disease, and will cause cavities as well as additional irritation along the gum line. This irritation is what can cause bleeding when brushing or flossing.
If hardened tartar isn’t removed from the teeth, the gum around them can become seriously inflamed and tender, which leads to even more bleeding. When the issue reaches this stage, tooth decay has begun along with gingivitis, which together will morph into periodontitis (is a serious gum disease that destroys the soft tissue and bone supporting the tooth).
Both gingivitis and periodontitis are both completely preventable with a good oral hygiene routine. If you are starting to see blood after brushing your teeth and can see you gums are red and swollen, it’s important to call your dentist for a professional cleaning and exam.
Bleeding gums—a sign of other diseases
Sometime, bleeding gums can be an indicator of one of several other underlying disorders or diseases. If your dentist notices swollen or bleeding gums at an appointment, they may refer you to your primary care provider for further testing. These are a few common diseases associated with gum bleeding and inflammation:
Those with diabetes are at an increased risk for periodontal disease in general, especially where necessary steps aren’t taken to control blood sugar. Though, while poorly controlled blood sugar could lead to gum disease, it has also been shown that gum diseases raises the amount of sugar in the blood. (It’s a two-way street, apparently.) Diabetes also leads to slower wound healing, meaning when gums do bleed, they take longer to stop.
Too little vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for tissue growth and repair. If your body has a vitamin C deficit, your gums make take more time to heal and will be more prone to swelling. In the most severe cases, scurvy can result. This disease causes weakness and bleeding under the skin and gums.
If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth and then don’t stop soon after, it could be a sign of thrombocytopenia. If your body doesn’t have enough platelets to form blood clots, excessive bleeding may occur. This can be serious, so it’s important to seek medical treatment if you experience uncontrollable gum bleeds.
Pregnancy can cause you to experience a whole host of side effects that range from the annoying to the outright bizarre. While you may not think that caring for your teeth and gums during pregnancy is as important as caring for just about anything else, the truth is that hormones in pregnancy can result in significant change in your mouth.
Almost half of pregnant women say they experienced bleeding and swollen gums while pregnant. Gums become more sensitive during pregnancy due to surging hormones. Not only do these hormones make you feel crazy at times, they also make you more vulnerable to plaque and bacteria getting lodged in your gum line, too.
Another cause of bleeding gums in pregnancy is a decrease in saliva production. Less saliva means bacteria can hang out in the mouth instead of being washed away with normal saliva production.
And finally, changes in diet—particularly excess carbs when you’re dealing with morning sickness—lend to creating an oral environment that breeds plaque and gum disease. If you are pregnant, it’s extra important to visit your dentist and brush your teeth.
Certain types of medications like blood thinners can cause gums to bleed after brushing. Since these medications hinder the blood’s ability to clot, it can lead to in an increase in bleeding, too. If you are on blood thinners, it’s important to discuss it with your dentist prior to any visit.
New oral health routine
If you are starting a new oral health routine like Invisalign or teeth whitening (in other words, anything that involves your mouth), you might get more than you bargained for. As with any new routine, you may notice unfavorable side effects as your mouth gets used to whatever that new routine may be (even a new toothbrush).
It’s also important to examine the type of toothbrush you are using if you experience gum bleeding. If you switched bristle strength—particularly if you went from soft bristles to hard—it could be causing irritation along the gum line. Don’t let this temporary side effect deter you from committing to a new oral health routine, though. The bleeding should stop within a week.
While not all bleeding from the gums is a direct result of diseases like gingivitis, many times the bleed could be a warning that something is going on in your mouth. If you are experiencing new bleeding, take a look at your oral health routine and the medications you are on and give your dentist a call for a more comprehensive exam.