How to Manage Bleeding Gums at Home

By Premier Dental of Ohio

Dealing with bleeding gums

Bleeding gums are usually the first sign of gum disease.  Millions of Americans experience bleeding gums every day.  Though many people accept this as “normal”, nothing could be further from the truth.  Bleeding gums means there is a problem, and that problem is gingivitis.

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the scientific term used to describe inflammation of the gums.  Inflammation is the response to some type of injury or irritation within the body.  When acute inflammation occurs, it leads to swelling, redness, tenderness, and a tendency to bleed.  This is because in its response to the injury, it increases the blood flow to a site.

What Causes Gingivitis?

The cause of gingivitis is always dental plaque.  Plaque contains bacteria, food debris, and exfoliated tissue cells from the inside of the mouth.  The bacteria that live in dental plaque produce toxins, and these toxins are the “injury” that leads to the inflammatory response.  The inflammatory response leads to the bleeding gums.

Secondary Causes of Gingivitis

While the buildup of dental plaque is always the primary cause of gingivitis, there are several factors that can be secondary causes.  This means that they put you at a higher risk for inflammation or plaque buildup.

One unusual cause of bleeding gums is hormone surges.  We see this frequently in adolescents going through puberty and women who are pregnant or menopausal.  Large fluctuations in hormone levels affect the body’s inflammatory response.  Basically, the body “over-reacts” to the injury of plaque buildup, causing severe inflammation in response to even minimal plaque buildup.

Another risk factor for gingivitis is a dry mouth.  Millions of Americans suffer from dry mouth as a side effect t of prescription medications.  Saliva is one of the body’s natural defense mechanisms against dental plaque.  When the body does not make enough saliva, plaque can collect more easily.  The teeth and gums become dry and sticky, making it more likely for plaque to adhere.

Inconsistent Dental Visits – Unfortunately, this is a risk factor that applies to many people today as we face limited access to dental care due to the coronavirus pandemic.  No one is capable of perfectly removing all of the dental plaque from the teeth, so professional teeth cleanings are a necessary part of a healthy mouth routine.  When we miss teeth cleanings, certain areas of plaque accumulate where we don’t or can’t reach with our own oral hygiene methods at home.  More bacteria produce more toxins, which lead to more inflammation.

What Can I Do About Bleeding Gums?

When seeing the dentist is impossible or inadvisable for you, there are a few things you can do at home to lower the effect of acute inflammation.  You should notice a lessening in the bleeding of your gums when following these steps.  If you do not, you need to schedule a dental visit as soon as possible.

  1. Improve Plaque Removal.

Because plaque is always the initial cause of bleeding gums, you must work diligently to remove plaque from the teeth and gums.  Plaque builds up every single day, so the removal process must become a consistent part of your daily routine.  Many people who experience bleeding gums are performing only a perfunctory oral hygiene routine.  To fight gingivitis and remove as much dental plaque as possible, your routine should include the following:

  • Brushing with the appropriate technique twice a day, preferably after breakfast and just before bed. The toothbrush bristles should touch every exposed surface of every tooth in your mouth and the edges of the gums.
  • Flossing every night before bed. Flossing is the only way to remove all of the dental plaque from between the teeth.  You can experiment with flossing alternatives like the Waterpik or interdental brushes.  While these alternatives are not quite as effective as flossing, they are better than not flossing.
  • Whitening mouthwash can help reduce inflammation in the gum tissues. This type of mouthwash does not actually whiten your teeth, but one of the active ingredients helps improve swelling, tenderness and bleeding of the gums.
  1. Treat Dry Mouth.

Because dry mouth makes plaque much heavier and stickier, you must take steps to address the dry mouth problem if you want to reduce gingivitis and bleeding gums.  Treating dry mouth can be difficult and may involve any combination of the following steps:

  • Talk to your doctor about lowering the dosage of prescription medications. As dosages decrease, so do side effects.
  • Drink plenty of water. Your body cannot produce saliva if it is in a state of dehydration.
  • Chew sugar-free gum between meals. The flavor of the gum and the chewing motion stimulates the natural production of saliva.
  • Use intraoral lubricants to moisten the inside of the mouth. There are several brands of dry mouth gels available over-the-counter.  Biotene is the most prevalent and easiest to find.
  • Use salivary stimulants overnight. Xylimelts are small patches that stick to the roof of the mouth and release a sweet tasting substance, stimulating your body to produce saliva as you sleep.
  1. Eat a Low Sugar Diet.

Sugar feeds inflammation.  Patients who are diabetic or have high levels of sugar in their diet can expect a much harder fight against bleeding gums and gingivitis.  In order to lower your body’s acute inflammatory response, reduce your sugar intake.  It will make your whole body healthier!

  1. Add Additional Oral Hygiene Practices.

Studies show a decrease in plaque index levels and gingival bleeding on patients who practice oil pulling.  This ancient technique involves swishing or “pulling” coconut oil (or olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, etc…) through the teeth for 20 minutes per day.  The traditional claims are that oil pulling removes toxins from your body.  Studies show that it does in fact reduce bacterial counts, plaque levels, and bleeding.  In addition to the suggested oral hygiene routine above, oil pulling could improve the health of your gum tissues.

More Questions about Bleeding Gums?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our dentists and dental hygienists.  Schedule a professional teeth cleaning to begin a new oral hygiene routine with a clean slate.

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