Have you ever wondered what the purpose of your gums are?
Your gums act as a sealant and protectant for the deep layers of your teeth. They prevent uncomfortable friction while you chew your food, and shield the deeper, more sensitive areas of your teeth from bacteria and disease.
Just like your teeth, your gums are prone to issues caused by plaque and bacterial build up, too.
It’s important to keep your gums clean so they can continue to protect the rest of your body from short and long-term health issues that come with a build-up of plaque. Plaque is the combination of leftover food and bacteria that creates a harmful paste. It sticks to your teeth and gums causing irritation and, if left untreated, leads to tooth decay.
Your gums can also offer signs that they need a little extra attention to stay healthy. These signs can include swelling or bleeding.
If you or your child’s gums are bleeding when you floss, it’s time to take notice and give your mouths a little extra TLC. You’ll need to know what’s causing the bleeding, and have some solutions ready to go for when they do.
Why Do Your Gums Bleed When You Floss?
Flossing is the best way to clean those hard-to-reach areas and remove food and bacteria from between your teeth and gums, which lowers your risk of tooth decay.
If your gums bleed when you floss, this doesn’t mean you should take flossing out of your or your child’s dental health routine. In fact, it can mean just the opposite.
Reason #1: You Just Started Flossing
If you or your child are new to flossing, or you haven’t done it in a long time, your gums are likely to bleed a bit at first.
If the bleeding is minimal and stops quickly, it’s probably a sign your gums are a bit sensitive and need to get used to flossing. Continue to floss daily, and the irritation and bleeding should stop soon.
Reason #2: There’s a Buildup of Plaque
Adding flossing to your routine doesn’t mean it’s time to cut back on your brushing routine. These processes go hand-in-hand to help you and your child have healthy teeth.
Oftentimes, bleeding gums can be a sign of a buildup of plaque caused by improper brushing. Use this checklist to ensure you’re doing everything you can to prevent plaque buildup that causes bleeding gums:
- Make sure you and your child are brushing twice a day, for 2 minutes each time you brush.
- Use a soft bristled toothbrush that fits each of your mouths well, meaning it easily reaches the back of your teeth and other hard-to-reach areas.
- Use toothpaste with fluoride in it for extra protection against food debris, and the strengthening of your teeth over time.
- Place your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums, and gently brush each tooth. Make sure you and your child brush the front, sides, and back of the teeth.
- You can also help eliminate the risk of plaque build-up on the gums by making sure you both moderate your consumption of carbs and sugar, as these can stick to the teeth and gums, attracting harmful bacteria.
Reason #3: You’re Brushing Too Hard
Bleeding gums can be a sign that you’re brushing too hard, or that the bristles of your brush are too stiff.
There are a few other ways you can tell if you’re brushing too hard. If you notice any of these signs in addition to gums bleeding when flossing, it’s likely you need to use a gentler hand with a softer bristled brush:
- Your teeth are or have been becoming sensitive to different temperatures and textures.
- Your gums begin to recede, or pull back.
- Your toothbrush has frayed and battered bristles.
Reason #4: You Have Gingivitis
Gingivitis is a gum disease caused by an excess buildup of plaque due to a poor oral hygiene routine. Symptoms of gingivitis include swollen gums, bad breath, and — you guessed it — gums that bleed when you floss.
Just like the other reasons for bleeding gums, this issue can be prevented by sticking to your oral health routine and scheduling regular visits to the dentist’s office. Kids and adults should go to the dentist about once every 6 months for a routine checkup and cleaning.
Bleeding Gums Treatment Tips
You can usually ease any discomfort and bleeding when you floss by making sure you have a consistent flossing routine, and that you’re brushing properly. If your gums continue to bleed, however, there are additional methods of prevention.
- Rinse with salt water. Rinsing with salt water once a day can help kill harmful bacteria that can cause gum irritation.
- Reduce stress. Stress can cause your immune system to lag, which in turn can cause a lot of health issues — one of those being gum disease. Do your best to use self-calming techniques, and try things like yoga and meditation to help decrease stress hormones.
- Eat foods rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps fight off infections, including gum infections that can cause sensitivity and bleeding.
Any kind of bleeding can make you feel uneasy, especially when it’s happening to your child! Luckily, bleeding gums from flossing is fairly common, and very treatable.
If you try the above solutions like working on your brushing and flossing routine, rinsing with salt water and watching what you eat, and they still continue to bleed, it might be time to see a dentist.
Brushing and flossing issues can cause problems besides bleeding gums, too — problems that can also lead to long-term health issues. Many of these issues can escalate beyond bleeding gums, and can cause full-blown toothaches.