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Swollen, bleeding gums can be uncomfortable and unattractive. These are also hallmark signs of periodontal disease, which can severely impact your oral health. Your general health could suffer too.

What Symptoms Should I Look out for?

  • Bleeding during Flossing—many people will only experience bleeding gums when they floss or brush their teeth. Pay special attention during your hygiene routine.
  • Change in Texture—healthy gum tissue is firm, smooth, and lies flat next to the teeth. Swollen tissue may have a rolled margin along the teeth or appear visibly inflamed.
  • Change in Color—gum tissue should be evenly pigmented and light pink or coral. Dark pink, red, purple or even blue gums could indicate something is wrong. 
Tooth diagram

Do I Just Need to Brush and Floss More?

Oral hygeine is vital to the equation, but there are other risk factors. A buildup of bacterial plaque, the catalyst for gum disease, is most often the cause of swollen and bleeding gums. Oral infections, allergic reactions, and mouth ulcers, or canker sores, can increase your risk of swelling. Certain types of vitamin deficiencies and hormonal changes, such as pregnancy, can also impact your gum health.

A Closer Look at what Causes Swollen, Bleeding Gums

  • Bacteria—the bacteria that cause gum disease release toxic substances. This causes the soft tissue to become infected and increasingly inflamed
  • Injury to the Soft Tissue—brushing too aggressively or using a hard-bristled brush can irritate the delicate tissue. Burns from hot food and drinks can also injure the gums
  • Pregnancy and Birth Control—puberty, pregnancy, and menstruation, as well as oral birth control, cause a rise in certain hormones. This leads to increased blood flow to the gums, which can make them swell and bleed more easily

Bleeding gums are never normal, not even when you have your teeth professionally cleaned.

Lisa Marie Samaha, DDS, founder and director of the Perio Arts Institute

John F. Rink DDS, AAACD

So How Can One Prevent Swollen, Bleeding Gums?

  • Don’t Forget to Brush and Floss—if you tend to hit the sheets without flossing, break that habit. In fact, some dentists recommend brushing and flossing twice-a-day at least
  • Refine Your Arsenal—are your toothbrush bristles soft and pliable? If not, swap it out. Better yet, invest in an electric toothbrush which is gentler on the gums
  • Rule Out Meds and Other Causes—speak with your doctor about medications or medical conditions that could be causing bleeding or swollen gums. They might also test you for vitamin deficiencies, infections, and more 

See a Dentist if Symptoms do not Resolve on their Own

In some cases, symptoms will clear up on their own. This is often true for injuries, such as a burn to the mouth. If symptoms remain, your dentist can review the frequency and severity of your concerns and recommend an appropriate treatment. Your doctor may also perform an oral exam and measure periodontal pockets if you suffer from gum disease.

Professional and At-Home Care Remain your Best Defense

  • Treatment for Gum Disease—first, visit a dentist to determine whether you require a deep cleaning. Also known as scaling and root planing, this step is often sufficient if a regular professional cleaning cannot restore your gum health.
  • Antibiotic Therapy—if your gums are infected, the doctor might also apply topical antibiotics. These can kill harmful bacteria and allow the soft tissue to heal.
  • Periodontal Maintenance—gum disease often requires ongoing treatment. Some people may require more frequent cleanings to control the growth of bacteria. Typically, these patients will need to visit a dentist or periodontist every three months.

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