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Bleeding gums

Definition

Bleeding gums can be a sign that you have or are at risk for gum disease. Ongoing gum bleeding may be due to serious medical conditions such as leukemia and bleeding and platelet disorders.

Alternative Names

Gums - bleeding

Causes

The main cause of bleeding gum is the buildup of plaque at the gum line. This will lead to a condition called gingivitis, or inflamed gums.

Plaque that is not removed will harden into tartar. This will lead to increased bleeding and a more advanced form of gum and jawbone disease known as periodontitis.

Other causes of bleeding gums include:

Home Care

Visit the dentist at least once every 6 months for plaque removal. Follow your dentist's home care instructions.

You should brush your teeth gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush at least twice a day. It is best if you can brush after every meal. Your dentist may tell you to rinse with salt water or hydrogen peroxide and water. Do not use mouthwashes that contain alcohol, which can make the problem worse.

Flossing teeth twice a day can prevent plaque from building up. It can help to follow a balanced, healthy diet. Try to avoid snacking between meals and cut down on the carbohydrates you eat.

Other tips:

  • Have periodontal exam.
  • Avoid the use of tobacco, which aggravates bleeding gums.
  • Control gum bleeding by applying pressure directly on the gums with a gauze pad soaked in ice water.
  • If you have been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency, take vitamin supplements.
  • Avoid aspirin unless your health care provider has recommended that you take it.
  • If side effects of a medicine are causing the irritation, ask your doctor to prescribe a different drug. Never change your medicine without first talking to your doctor.
  • Use an oral irrigation device on the low setting to massage the gums.
  • See your dentist if your dentures or other dental appliances do not fit well or are causing sore spots on your gums.
  • Follow your dentist's instructions on how to brush and floss so you can avoid hurting your gums.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Consult your health care provider if:

  • The bleeding is severe or long term (chronic)
  • Your gums continue to bleed even after treatment
  • You have other unexplained symptoms with the bleeding

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums, and ask questions about the problem and your oral care habits. You may also be asked questions about your diet and the medicines you take.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

References

Chow AW. Infections of the oral cavity, neck, and head. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 60.


Review Date: 2/25/2014
Reviewed By: Ilona Fotek, DMD, MS, Palm Beach Prosthodontics Dental Associates, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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