Why Do My Gums Bleed When I Brush?

When thinking about your dental health, you’re most likely focused on preventing cavities in your teeth, but another very important aspect of a healthy mouth is the state of your gums. Your gums play a major role in your overall health, not just your oral health. You may have had the experience of swollen or bleeding gums during or after you brush your teeth and not be entirely sure why. There are a number of possible reasons why.

Brushing Technique

When you are brushing, you may be tempted to scrub as hard as you can. If this is the case, you may be damaging your gums, since they’re made of delicate tissue. The toothbrush you’re using may also be a factor here. Whether you have the manual or electric version, opt for the soft bristles that have blunted ends. The medium or hard bristles may cause damage to your gums as well as your tooth enamel. Also, when you brush, use gentle circular motions to massage and clean your teeth and gums. A back-and-forth motion can irritate and damage your gums, causing them to bleed or recede. A good way to figure out how much pressure you should be using is to use your nondominant hand a couple times. That’s how gently you should be pushing your brush.

Gum Disease

In the best case scenario, changing the way you brush takes care of the problem. The less pleasant cause of bleeding gums is gum disease. Three-quarters of American adults over age 35 have some form of gum disease. Most people have the less severe form called gingivitis. The more serious type, which about 15% have, is known as periodontitis.
The symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth.
  • Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food.
  • Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth.
  • Loose or separating teeth.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, make an appointment as soon as you can. Gum disease is treatable, and your dentist can answer any questions you have.