Bleeding gums is a common problem encountered by many patients. Why do our gums bleed and why should we care?
Bleeding gums is a sign of inflammation or swelling of the gums also known as gingivitis. Gum inflammation can be caused by various factors. The most common cause of gingivitis is accumulation of plaque on the teeth. When the soft plaque calcifies, it becomes hard, difficult to remove tartar. Tartar, like plaque, can irritate the gingival tissue and cause inflammation. Other common causes of gingivitis can include bulky fillings close to or below the gum tissue, certain medications, trauma caused by vigorous flossing or brushing, area of chronic food impaction, mouth breathing, chronic dry mouth and hormonal changes.
By far the most common cause of gingival inflammation is infrequent flossing or brushing of teeth. Plaque accumulates on teeth within a few hours of flossing or brushing, inflammation follows soon after. This is why your hygienist is always on your case about flossing. Just a few minutes a day can keep the inflammation away.
Another common reason for gingival inflammation are overhangs. These are overextended fillings that can be identified by your dentist or hygienist. These fillings should be either smoothed or replaced by your dentist. If correction is not made, you will experience localized chronic inflammation in the area, even if you floss your teeth regularly. Over long-term this can lead to localized loss of bone, and less support for the involved tooth.
If your dentist informs you that your medication may be contributing to inflammation of your gums, you should talk to your physician to determine if changing the medication is an option. If you have to take the medication, you should make sure that you keep your teeth as clean as possible to minimize other potential causes of inflammation.
Daily flossing and brushing is very important. There are patients out there that feel like they have to scrub their teeth instead of brushing them. Applying too much pressure while flossing can cut your gums and cause inflammation. Regular oral hygiene is important, however technique is even more important to make sure you are not damaging you teeth or gum tissue. Ask a dental professional to go over proper oral hygiene technique.
Areas of chronic food impaction can lead to localized inflammation and if left unchecked can lead to eventual bone loss. This problem can be dealt with a couple of different ways. If you are diligent about cleaning out the area several times per day, you can keep the area healthy. Realistically, who has time to floss several times a day? The more permanent option is to close the contact between the teeth and not allow food impaction to occur.
Gingivitis caused by dry mouth and hormonal changes is much more difficult to control. As previously mentioned, excellent oral hygiene is a good start. Trying to decrease the effects of dry mouth due to mouth breathing can be a challenge. Products like Biotene can help lubricate and moisten your mouth. A more natural approach would be rinsing your mouth with a teaspoon of coconut oil before bedtime, after flossing and brushing. This can provide natural lubrication that can decrease the dryness and inflammation. Place a teaspoon of solid coconut oil in your mouth, let it melt, and rinse with it for about 30 seconds.