Dealing with Bleeding Gums


It’s something most of us have experienced at one time or another: after brushing or flossing we see a bit of blood in the toothpaste we spit away. Occasional occurrences of such blood might not be highly significant, but if blood appears regularly it indicates a problem.

Causes of bleeding gums

Gums can bleed for a number of reasons, and it’s important to determine what is causing bleeding gums. Bleeding gums are generally easily treated, but if neglected problems can result.

Plaque buildup

Microscope Photo of Tooth Brush Bristle with Plaque

Plaque is one of the main causes of bleeding gums. If good oral hygiene is not maintained, plaque—a soft, sticky biofilm of sugars and bacteria that builds up on teeth, especially along the gum line—can accumulate. When left on the teeth, plaque provides an environment that is conducive acid formation as bacteria digest sugars. Enough acid, and time, eventually leads to dental caries. In addition, plaque buildup and the acid it develops can lead to gum irritation and bleeding.

Daily dental hygiene should remove most plaque. Brushing and flossing are essential. As plaque is colorless, it is difficult to see, and you might use disclosing tablets to reveal plaque accumulation that is escaping removal. Disclosing tablets have a dye that will temporarily stain plaque, making finding and removing it much easier.

Because plaque is sticky, rinsing with water or mouthwash will not remove it: both flossing and brushing are required.


Plaque and Tartar
Plaque and Tartar

When left longer, plaque can harden into tartar, a mineralized deposit. Tartar first forms along the gum lines, and just below the gum lines. Unlike plaque, it is a hard substance, and brushing or flossing will not successfully remove it. When flossing regularly, you might eventually find that it is becoming harder to get the dental floss between closely spaced teeth: this is an indication that tartar is beginning to form. A dentist or dental hygienist is the best person to remove tartar.

If tartar is not removed, like plaque it can irritate gums leading to gum bleeding. If left too long, neglect of proper plaque and tartar removal can lead to more serious gum disease and tooth decay.

Dental tools

Electric toothbrush

It’s possible that bleeding gums can be caused by the initial use of a new dental tool, such as a new toothbrush. In general, brushes with soft bristles are best and will do all the cleaning that is necessary. Similarly, starting flossing if your mouth is unaccustomed to flossing can cause some bleeding. However, these sorts of bleeding are transient and won’t last long.

Dental floss
Container with dental floss


Apart from the ability of sugary foods to cause plaque, other dietary deficiencies can also cause bleeding gums. Lack of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium are possible causes of bleeding gums. Attention to proper nutrition is always important, but especially so if a lack of nutrition is causing or contributing to bleeding gums.


Certain medications can also cause sensitive or bleeding gums. In some cases, when medications cause an excessively dry mouth, gum bleeding can result. This cause of bleeding gums can be difficult to resolve, but the usual steps to prevent dry mouth are recommended.


Some medications are blood thinners and can lead to increase in bleeding gums. Even Aspirin can potentially make a difference.


If you need yet another reason to quit smoking, it is for improving dental health. Smoking contributes to the formation of tartar, and so can also contribute to bleeding gums.

Other causes

A number of other things can also cause bleeding gums, though not all of them are directly connected to dental matters. People with bleeding disorders, people using blood thinners, or people experiencing the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy are all more susceptible to bleeding gums. Improper flossing and ill-fitting dentures and plates can also contribute.

With so many possible causes for bleeding gums, it might seem that addressing the problem would be impossible. In fact, however, most cases of bleeding gums are easily addressed, and the effects can often be reversed. Most important from a dental health point of view, proper dental hygiene and regular dental visits are all that is needed. Contact the Sherway Gardens Dental Centre for more information on bleeding gums, or simply to make a booking for regular dental cleaning.

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