woman in a bathrobe holding a toothbrush worried about brushing her teeth

Hello again!

This is Dr. Hena with another post to inform you about more misconceptions in dentistry. But first I would like to start with an update about my time working at this incredible office. I love working with the Lewiston community and feel very much at home working at this practice.

I also love that I am able to write an occasional article to share and have been focusing on common misconceptions people have about oral health in a special series here called MythBusters: Dentist's Edition!! If you are new to the series, please check out my first post "Does Brushing Harder Clean Your Teeth Better?"

Now, on to today's mythbusting focus: bleeding gums.

mythbusters banner with hena patel dentists edition
Dr. Hena Patel, busting myths surrounding oral health!

Are Bleeding Gums Normal?

The short answer is no, bleeding gums are not generally normal.

Are they common? Yes, they're more common than you think.

This topic has always come up with patients. Yes, I know flossing is not typically done as often as it should be, but flossing is important because the gums need to be just as healthy as the teeth. Patients often say "I don't floss because it hurts" or "My gums bleed when I floss, so I don't do it." Well, I am here to tell you why this is happening and set the record straight about what you should and should not do if your gums tend to bleed.

Why do my gums bleed?

Healthy gums are normally pink and do not bleed when brushing or flossing.

When there is plaque, debris, or tartar around the gums, the gums get irritated and inflamed because something that isn't suppose to be there is present. They start to turn red and pull away from teeth.

When you brush or floss irritated gums, they start to bleed and feel painful and "scratched up." Not to fret! If you keep up with it after the first attempt, the bleeding, redness, and discomfort goes away with time, if you are brushing AND flossing correctly.

Should I brush or floss my gums if they bleed?

Yes, you should continue brushing and flossing gently - even if your gums bleed.

Brushing is effective on the surfaces of the teeth it can reach, but there is still plaque that is trapped in between the teeth, where the teeth are touching. When plaque stays in between the teeth, you can get cavities there. You can also get gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums due to bacteria presence.

Background photo of a glass of water and a spoon full of salt behind a quote that says Bleeding gums, try a warm salt water rinse to soothe sore gums after flossing.
Dentist's Advice for soothing sore gums!

Earlier we discussed how delicate the gums are and any agitation out of the ordinary can lead to recession. Agitation is not not the only cause of recession. Not flossing keeps plaque and bacteria that cannot be removed with a toothbrush on the teeth longer, irritating the gums.

So if your gums bleed a bit when you are flossing, chances are you skipped flossing for a bit too long. So even if your gums are bleeding, floss on!

Rinsing with warm salt water will help alleviate some of your discomfort, but it is really important to continue the good habit of brushing and flossing. Be sure to be gentle but thorough in your approach.

(More tips on proper brushing can be found in that first myth-busting post I wrote.)

Am I flossing correctly?

Flossing is not as easy as I wish it could be, but with some time and effort, it can be worked into an evening routine. Practice makes perfect.

Here are the basics:

  1. Take 12 inches of floss and wrap most of it on your non dominant hand's middle finger.
  2. Hold the floss by your index finger and thumbs on both hands (this prevents the floss from being wrapped tight on your fingers).
  3. Go tooth by tooth and wrap the floss like a C-Shape to go under the gums and grab onto as much plaque as possible.
  4. Repeat the C-Shape on the adjacent tooth to ensure you get below the gums of both touching teeth.

** If you are at all uncertain about your technique, feel free to ask your hygienist or dentist at your next appointment!

Some tips I recommend would be to try flossing before brushing, swishing with water, and then brushing to remove any debris left. I also believe in working up to the habit, so as mentioned, flossing one time a week, and slowly going up to every day. Flossing while watching tv is something I usually do as my hands are free at that moment.

It may not be a possibility for someone to floss every day, but even flossing once a week can make a difference. You can also learn about some additional flossing alternatives to add to your routine.

At the end of the day, bleeding gums aren't "normal" though they are common. However, that does not mean they should be bleeding all of the time. If you ever have questions or are concerned about your gum health, feel free to call our office and schedule an appointment.

Stay flossy!

Dr. Hena Patel, DMD