Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can occur for several reasons: gum disease, injury, pregnancy, and some health conditions. Brushing too vigorously or flossing when you haven't flossed in a while can also cause the gums to bleed.

Because bleeding gums can occasionally indicate a health issue, seeing a dentist is best, especially if the problem is ongoing.

This article explains the symptoms, causes, and treatments for bleeding gums.

Woman brushing her teeth

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Symptoms of Bleeding Gums

Some symptoms accompany bleeding gums. If your gums start to bleed, you may experience the following:

  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Bleeding when you brush or floss
  • Gum inflammation
  • Tenderness

Causes of Bleeding Gums

Gum disease, brushing too hard, infections, and some cancers are several reasons your gums may bleed.

Gum Disease

When plaque builds up along the gumline, it can lead to gingivitis, a reversible gum disease that causes inflammation. During pregnancy, you may experience gingivitis because of the change in hormones. Adolescents during their growth spurts also experience a change in hormones and can also be more at risk of developing gingivitis.

If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis. This gum disease is irreversible and can lead to tissue and bone damage.

Pregnancy and Bleeding Gums

Due to shifting hormones (estrogen and progesterone, gingivitis is more common during pregnancy. About 75% of pregnant people may experience pregnancy gingivitis.

Teeth Hygiene

Other times, your behavior, like brushing too hard, using a hard-bristled toothbrush, or flossing infrequently, can cause your gums to bleed. You can quickly resolve this situation by modifying your dental practices.

In addition, friction from dentures or dental appliances that don't fit well could rub against your gums and irritate them.

Cancer and Other Causes

More rarely, serious conditions, such as blood cancers (leukemia), bleeding disorders, gum or tooth infections, and vitamin deficiencies (vitamin K) and scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) may be to blame.

If your bleeding gums don't seem to have an apparent cause, it's a good idea to seek a medical evaluation.

What Medications Can Cause Bleeding Gums?

There are certain medications that can increase your risk of bleeding gums indirectly. It causes your gums to swell up making it harder to clean them, which increases the risk of developing gingivitis.

If you take blood thinners, you may be at greater risk for bleeding gums. Blood thinners include antiplatelet medications, like aspirin, Ticlid (ticlopidine), and Plavix (clopidogrel), and anticoagulants, like Coumadin (warfarin).

Because these medications interfere with the body's ability to clot blood, taking them may result in bleeding gums, especially during some dental procedures.

Cleanings, extractions, dental surgery, implant placement, and biopsies require special care when you take these medications. Talk to a dentist about your medications before undergoing any dental procedure.

How to Treat Bleeding Gums

You can often treat bleeding gums with healthy dental practices. Healthy dental habits can prevent plaque buildup and gum disease. In addition, they can treat the early stages of gingivitis.

Dental habits that promote healthy gums include:

  • Brushing teeth twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Routine dental exams and cleanings
  • Quit smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Ask your dentist or hygienist how to improve your dental hygiene

If periodontitis causes your bleeding gums, you will need special treatment to address the damage from the disease. These treatments may include:

  • Scaling and root planing (cleaning out infected root surfaces)
  • Root surface debridement (removing damaged tissue)
  • Regenerative procedures to reverse bone and tissue loss
  • Surgery

Are There Tests to Diagnose Bleeding Gums?

To determine what might be causing your bleeding gums, a healthcare provider may recommend the following:

When to See a Healthcare Provider

The following situations may warrant a medical evaluation:

  • Bleeding is excessive.
  • Bleeding doesn't stop quickly.
  • You are pregnant.
  • Your dental appliances do not fit properly.

If aggressive toothbrushing or infrequent flossing cause bleeding gums, this should resolve in about a week. However, if your gums continue to bleed, even with gentler brushing and consistent flossing, you may want to make a dental appointment to check it out.

Summary

Many things can cause bleeding gums. The most common cause is poor dental hygiene and gingivitis. However, health conditions, medications, injury, and vitamin deficiencies can also cause it. You can prevent and treat bleeding gums at home by brushing and flossing regularly, receiving routine dental care, and not smoking. More severe gum disease requires specialized periodontal treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Almost everyone experiences bleeding gums from time to time. Maybe you bit a chip at the wrong angle, scratched your gums, or flossed for the first time in a while. If that's the case, you should notice that the bleeding stops after a short time—maybe a week or so—as your wound heals or you start to floss more regularly. However, if your bleeding doesn't have an apparent cause or is excessive, it's a good idea to make an appointment with your dentist.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I get my gums to stop bleeding?

    Gums may bleed for many reasons, so you must first learn the cause. Often, Gums often bleed from too much brushing and not enough flossing. If that's the case, gently modifying your dental habits by brushing twice a day and flossing every day will usually resolve the problem within a week. However, if more serious gum disease is the culprit, you'll need periodontal treatment.

  • Are bleeding gums serious?

    Bleeding gums aren't always serious. Gums bleed from brushing too hard or flossing too little. But other times, bleeding gums can indicate more serious issues, like gum disease or other health conditions. In addition, if you take blood thinners, you are at greater risk of gum bleeding.

  • Can smoking cause bleeding gums?

    Smoking is a cause of gum disease. Therefore, it can lead to bleeding gums. Smoking contributes to gum disease because smokers are more likely to develop bacteria on their teeth, which leads to gum disease.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The American Dental Association. Bleeding gums.

  2. MedlinePlus. Bleeding gums.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy and oral health.

  4. Tungare S, Paranjpe AG. Drug induced gingival overgrowth. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

  5. American Academy of Oral Medicine. Blood thinners and dental care.

  6. American Dental Association. Gingivitis.

  7. American Dental Association (ADA) Division of Science. For the patient. Keeping your gums healthyJ Am Dent Assoc. 2015;146(4):A46. doi:10.1016/j.adaj.2015.01.021

  8. American Dental Association. Periodontics.

  9. Oral Health Foundation. Smoking and oral health.

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.