Medically reviewed by:
Dr Dan Bunstone - Medical Officer
What are bleeding gums?
Bleeding gums is the term used when there is bleeding at your gum line, usually when you brush or floss your teeth. It can be an indication of a problem with your oral health, or in rarer cases, it may be a symptom of an underlying health condition.
Gingivitis and periodontitis
Bleeding when you brush your teeth can be a sign of the first stages of gum disease, also known as gingivitis.
Plaque on your teeth can infect your gums and cause them to become inflamed. You may notice bleeding at the gum line and feel pain or tenderness when brushing your teeth or eating.
Visiting the dentist regularly so they can remove plaque and maintain good oral hygiene can help to prevent this.
Gingivitis can lead to a more serious condition called periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss, so it is important to get it treated.
Or it could be something simpler causing your gums to bleed, for example, if you have a new toothbrush, or have a new flossing routine.
Speak to your dentist for more advice on gingivitis and periodontitis.
What else causes bleeding gums?
There are other reasons that your gums may bleed, including some medical conditions, which we will discuss here.
Diabetes and other chronic conditions
Diabetics and people with other chronic conditions are more prone to experience problems with their gums, because of a weakened immune system.
Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)
This is a blood disorder where, due to a lack of cells called platelets, your blood doesn't clot as it should. This can cause you to bruise easily and can also result in excessive bleeding.
Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
Platelets are special blood cells needed to help the blood clot properly and appropriately. If you don't have enough of them then abnormal bruising and bleeding can occur.
One of the symptoms of leukaemia can be bleeding gums. There will also usually be all sorts of other symptoms as well from this serious disease. The condition is a cancer of the blood cells and can cause bruising and bleeding around the body.
Medication side effects
If you take blood thinning medication for an existing medical condition, this can make you bleed more easily. If this is the case, you should brush your teeth carefully, and don’t press too hard to avoid breaking the skin of the gums.
Pregnant women may also experience bleeding gums as the hormone changes taking place in their body make gums more sensitive.
Treatment for bleeding gums
If you have bleeding gums, your first port of call should be your dentist, as the most common cause is plaque. If it is a problem with your oral hygiene, your dentist will be able to give you a professional clean to remove plaque build-up and offer advice on how to stop gingivitis developing any further.
If you don’t have any other symptoms, you can try a few self-help methods to stop bleeding gums. These include:
- Brushing your teeth thoroughly and regularly.
- Using a mouthwash targeted at keeping your gums healthy, which are available from pharmacies and supermarkets.
- Trying organic dental products because you may be sensitive to chemicals in standard products.
- Rinsing your mouth with salt water. If the gum is damaged from a cut or abrasion, rinsing with salt water will keep it clean as it heals.
When to see a doctor about bleeding gums
You can discuss how to treat gum bleeding with a doctor if a dentist has ruled out gum disease or other oral hygiene problems. If you believe you may have an underlying condition that’s causing your bleeding gums, or if you are bruising abnormally or losing blood from elsewhere you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
A doctor will be able to look at your medical history, the medications you are currently taking and discuss the symptoms you have. You will probably need other investigations such as blood tests to make sure you get the right diagnosis.
At Push Doctor, you can see a GP online, on any device, from home, work or even on the go, at a time that suits you. Our doctors are available 7 days a week and can offer you the advice, diagnosis and treatment you may need. They can also refer you to a specialist for further investigation or treatment if needed.