This is one of the most common questions that we receive. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss your teeth, this is usually an indication that your gums are inflamed, a condition known as gingivitis. This can occur when harmful bacteria build up along and underneath the gum line. While not initially a serious condition, if left untreated, gingivitis can worsen into gum disease.

What are the symptoms of gingivitis?

Gingivitis symptoms include:

Bleeding gums when you brush or floss your teeth
Gums that have become tender and swollen
Bad breath or a persistent bad taste in your mouth
Gums that are receding or pulling back from the teeth
Loosening or shifting teeth
Changes in your bite or changes in the fit of your partial dentures

In the early stages, it’s very likely that you may have gingivitis without experiencing any painful symptoms. That is why it’s important to see your dentist any time you notice that your gums bleed.

What are the causes of gingivitis?

Gingivitis and gum disease have a number of causes and contributing factors. Most people assume this is a problem with their oral hygiene practices, but this isn’t always the case. While poor dental hygiene habits can contribute to gingivitis, other factors include:

Genetics – a family history of dental disease can mean that you are more likely to develop conditions such as gingivitis.
Hormones – when your body changes during puberty, as well as the hormone changes that occur during menstruation and pregnancy can make your gums more sensitive and more prone to inflammation.
Medication – if you take certain prescription medications, you may be at a higher risk for gum inflammation and other dental issues, particularly if one of the listed side effects is dry mouth.
Illness – certain chronic illnesses can cause gingivitis and other dental issues, particularly conditions such as cancer, HIV, and diabetes.
How is gingivitis treated?

The treatments for gingivitis will vary based on the severity of the disease. In many cases, the early stages of gingivitis can be treated with a simple saline rinse a few times a day. If you smoke, your dentist may be able to recommend a program to help you quit, as this can worsen your gingivitis. If your gingivitis has begun to progress into the more serious stages of gum disease your dentist will work to reduce any swelling and inflammation. This may include special medications and antibiotics.

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