(No, that’s not real blood)
Do your gums bleed when you brush? How about only when you floss? No matter how much you try to rationalize that bit of blood in your sink , this is a symptom of a much bigger problem.
Bleeding is NOT normal
If the skin on your leg is healthy, it will not bleed when you gently scratch an itch. If your eyes are healthy, they will not bleed when you rub them as you are trying to get the sleep away from the corners. If your scalp is healthy, it will not bleed when you run a comb through your hair. If your gums are healthy and free of disease, they will not bleed when you floss. You see where I’m going with this. Bleeding is always a sign of something of something bad.
Germs are Here To Stay
There are somewhere between 500 and 650 species of germs living in your mouth at any given time (1). Not all of them are necessarily evil or disease-causing. Some of them are actually just competing for space and help keep the more aggressive ones under control. Some of the germs on the surface are wimpy and can be removed easily. Others hide deep below the gum line where they aren’t bothered by brushing and will eventually begin to destroy the tissue and bone that hold our teeth in. When germs are left alone to frolic and reproduce, they can and will cause an infection. That infection will not hurt at first. This infection is called gingivitis. That infection can lead to tooth loss. No, we can’t destroy all germs in our mouth… but we can keep them under control.
You can Reverse Gingivitis
Gingivitis is a fancy name for an infection of the gums. What this means is that bacteria are wreaking havoc on your mouth. But let’s look at the bright side… with just 7-10 days of flossing at least once a day and brushing really well twice a day, almost anyone can remove enough bacteria to get rid of the active infection. Brushing alone disrupts approximately 50% of the germs in your mouth. The other half are deeply embedded below the gums where your toothbrush can’t reach. That’s where flossing and interdental aids come into play.
Bone Loss is Permanent
Should the gingivitis continue, the next phase of periodontal disease (4) is bone loss. If the bone in your jaw goes away, it cannot be grown back. This is when we start to see shifting of the teeth, recession of the gums and often times tooth loss. When you visit your dentist and/or hygienist, one of the most important things they can do to detect bone loss is the periodontal screening. It’s a simple process where we take a small probe to measure the space from the top of the tissue to where the bone begins. If you have one to three millimeters of space, all is well. Anything above four millimeters indicates bone loss or inflammation. To simplify things a bit here, imagine your tooth as a small castle that has a moat all around it. This “moat” should be shallow. Deep moats are hard to clean. (yes, I love analogies)
How To Deal With Bleeding Gums
Naturally I will say that everyone needs to see a dental office for a periodontal screening and X-rays. That’s definitely the best way to rule out periodontal disease and cavities. In the mean time, brush twice per day. Floss once a day like your life depends on it! Healthy gums can handle a good flossing and a good flossing session removes food and germs that cause bad breath and oral diseases. If you are consistently flossing every day for a few weeks and you still notice a sink full of blood, it’s time to look to a dental professional to see what the deeper problem is. It may be pockets on infection that you can’t physically keep clean. It might be tartar embedded in the gums. ***It might even be a medical condition.
Take it to the Shower
My favorite place to floss is in the shower! Whether you use string floss, proxabrushes, gum chucks, or other types of interdental tools, they all travel well. Why splatter your bathroom mirror with food particles and spit when it can be contained in shower stall? Plus, you might want to rinse your mouth a few times during the process.
*** in very few situations, bleeding may occur more often.
- when taking Coumadin or other blood thinners
- high levels of alcohol consumption also may act as a blood thinner (2)
- hormones are out of control like during pregnancy (3)
- medical conditions like leukemia or clotting disorders