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Gums bleed when flossing? Reasons why & what to do.

Do your gums bleed when flossing?  This article answers whether it’s normal for your gums to bleed, common reasons why they might and, most importantly, what you can do about it.

There’s no question that oral hygiene is important in everyday life. Whether it’s having fresh breath, silky smooth teeth or a minty tongue, we all have our must-dos when it comes to our dental routines. Brushing and flossing are both essential components of a good oral health routine. While flossing is often forgotten, and sometimes considered less important than brushing, it helps to prevent cavities and gum disease by removing the plaque that builds up in between your teeth.

Gums can bleed for a variety of different reasons, and whilst it may not be a medical emergency, it’s definitely something that you shouldn’t ignore. If you’re not in a habit of flossing regularly, or your technique doesn’t seem to be quite right, relax after 10 days of flossing correctly, the bleeding should stop. However, if it continues beyond this, or you have a history of gum disease in your family then you should consider booking an appointment with your dentist.

Is it normal for your gums to bleed when flossing?

The short answer is no.

While it’s not unusual for your gums to bleed when you first begin flossing, the bleeding should stop quickly. This is because flossing correctly and regularly will improve your oral hygiene, and your gums will become noticeably healthier in a matter of days. After all, healthy gums shouldn’t bleed.

Why do gums bleed when flossing?

Gums can bleed for a number of different reasons. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Gum disease. The primary cause of bleeding gums is plaque build-up. Without effective flossing, this often occurs in the gaps between your teeth as well as along your gum-line. An unpleasant response to this retained plaque is sore and inflamed gums (gingivitis). Bleeding gums after flossing is one of the earliest signs of gingivitis.
  • Your dental routine is too aggressive. Vigorous brushing and flossing does not equate to an effective cleaning routine. Brushing too roughly can actually be more damaging to your gums than beneficial! This is because gum tissue can be quite delicate, so harder bristles combined with aggressive brushing can cause injury to the gums.
  • You have a vitamin deficiency. While it’s not one of the most talked about symptoms of vitamin deficiencies, a lack of certain vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin C or Niacin, can actually lead to sore, inflamed and bleeding gums (also known as reason one: gingivitis).
  • You’re pregnant. About 50% of all pregnant women suffer from pregnancy gingivitis, which is pretty much exactly what its sounds like: gum disease whilst you’re pregnant. This means that if you’re expecting, keeping on top of your oral hygiene is more important than ever!

Whichever way you look at it, plaque plays a major role in the problem of bleeding gums. It is the leading cause of gingivitis, which features in three out of the four above reasons for bleeding gums.  While there may be several factors behind the build-up of plaque hiding in between your teeth, the most common underlying cause is that you’re not used to flossing regularly.

What should you do if your gums are bleeding?

  1. Don’t stop flossing. It may seem tempting to stop flossing if your gums are bleeding but that’s actually one of the worst things that you can do! It’s hugely more beneficial to continue flossing.
  2. Make sure you’re flossing with the correct technique. If you’re not flossing correctly, your flossing isn’t going to be very effective. Ineffective flossing doesn’t do a huge amount to help your oral health so it’s important to take some time out to check your technique.
  3. Give special attention where it’s needed. If there’s a particular area of your gums which seems to bleed more, it’s worth giving that an extra floss. This aids the removal of plaque, which is probably why your gums are bleeding in the first place.
  4. Consider changing your toothbrush. Medium to hard bristles on a toothbrush may be preferable for some, but if you have signs of gum disease, firmer bristles could be doing more harm than good. Softer toothbrushes that are designed to give an effective clean are worth investing in if your gums are bleeding.
  5. Persevere! Don’t forget your basic oral hygiene routine: continue brushing your teeth twice a day as well as flossing regularly.
  6. Take a trip to your dentist. If your gums are still bleeding after effective and regular flossing for more than around 10 days, you should contact probably your dentist and have them give their expert opinion. If you have a family history of gum disease, it’s worth giving your dentist a call sooner.
  7. Consider using a water flosser. If you’re using string floss on bleeding gums, there’s a possibility that it might be quite painful. However, it’s important to keep flossing, so if it’s causing problems you should consider trying out a water flosser, which you may find softer on your gums.

Why might a water flosser be better on bleeding gums?

Not only is water flossing more soothing on inflamed gums than string flossing, but it actually can help to reverse gum disease! Water flossing removes plaque in just one minute, which, unless you’ve got some flossing superpowers, is much faster than the average string floss session. It’s also been proven to be more effective than string flossing at this, as well as reducing inflammation.

Simply put:

If you’ve got bleeding gums, water flossing is likely to be a much more pleasant way to improve your oral hygiene than string flossing. See the best water flosser.

The bottom line:

If your gums are bleeding, it’s a sign that something’s wrong.  It’s important to recognise that bleeding gums usually highlight poor oral hygiene.

So what should you do about it? The answer is simple: keep flossing regularly and with the correct technique. This may be against your natural instincts, especially if you’re finding flossing sore, but it’s important not to stop. If string flossing is too awkward, time consuming or just seems to be more painful than it is helpful, then you should definitely consider switching to a water flosser.

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