When you notice a problem with your gums, such as swelling or bleeding when you brush or floss, your first thought might be “oh no, I have gum disease.” While bleeding, swollen, or sore gums can be a symptom of gum and bone disease, other factors can be behind your gum problems, too.
Understanding what might be behind your gum problems is the first step you can take to reducing the discomfort you feel. Here’s a closer look at a few common gum problems and the reasons behind them.
Common Gum Problems
One of the most easy-to-identify gum problems is bleeding gums. When you have bleeding gums, you might notice a bit of pink when you brush your teeth or see a bit of red when you floss.
In some cases, your gums can become swollen or feel sore. You might notice that a bit of gum between two of your teeth is tender or that you have some swelling on the front of your gums or in the back of the teeth.
What Causes Gum Problems
Although gum problems are often a sign of the earliest stages of gum and bone disease, several other things can make your gums more likely to bleed or can cause tenderness and swelling. Some of these things you can change at home while others might require the help of a dental professional. A few common causes of gum discomfort or bleeding include:
- How you brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth with extra vigor or using a toothbrush with firm or hard bristles can irritate the gums, leading to discomfort and bleeding.
- How you floss. Although flossing is often recommended as a way to reduce the risk of gum and bone disease, it can cause discomfort if you use too much pressure. Instead of pushing the floss against the gums, try gliding it gently between the teeth.
- Vitamin deficiencies. You are more likely to experience gum problems when your diet doesn’t provide enough of certain vitamins. Bleeding gums can be a sign of scurvy, for example, a condition that develops when people don’t get enough vitamin C. Low levels of vitamin K and B vitamins can also contribute to bleeding or swollen gums.
- Hormone levels/pregnancy. Changing hormone levels, especially in women, can make the gums more likely to bleed or to be sore and swollen. According to the American Pregnancy Association, hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and breast feeding increase blood flow to the gums, which can in turn trigger something known as pregnancy gingivitis.
- Tobacco use. Cigarettes and other tobacco products can make it more difficult for the body to fight infection and can interfere with healing, both of which can lead to the gums bleeding and swelling.
- Canker sores. In some cases, soreness or discomfort in the gums might be a result of a canker sore. Canker sores are usually white with a red border and can develop at the base of the gums. They might cause an uncomfortable sensation that feels like burning or tingling. They can develop as a result of irritation in the mouth, a reaction to a toothpaste or food, or because of high stress levels.
- Certain medications. Taking certain medicines, such as blood thinners, can cause gum problems, particularly bleeding gums.
- Oral appliances or dentures that don’t fit quite right. When dentures don’t fit quite right, they can irritate the gums, leading to bleeding or soreness. The same is true of braces that are too tight or mouthguards that aren’t the right fit for your mouth.
- Gum and bone disease. There are instances when bleeding, swollen, or sore gums are a sign of gum and bone disease, particularly gingivitis, the earliest stage of the disease. A buildup of plague on the teeth and below the gum line can make gums more likely to bleed and can cause them to swell.
How to Help Your Gums
You don’t have to live with gum problems. Once you know what’s behind the bleeding and other discomfort, you can work with a dental professional to solve the issue.
For example, a dental hygienist can give you a refresher course on how to brush your teeth gently, how to avoid inflaming or irritating the gums, and how to floss without pressing too deeply into the gum tissue. A twice-a-year cleaning by a hygienist will help to remove built-up plaque and tartar from the teeth and gums, reducing the chance of bleeding and inflammation. In some situations, your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings, every 3 to 4 months.
If braces, a mouthguard, or dentures that aren’t a good fit are contributing to your gum problems, a dentist can adjust the appliances, creating a better fit and reducing irritation.
Making certain lifestyle changes, such as giving up tobacco products, reducing alcohol consumption and adjusting your diet, might also help to minimize gum discomfort.
Klement Family Dental provides a range of dental services in St. Petersburg, FL, If you’ve noticed some pink or red when you brush or are experiencing a bit of discomfort in your gums, our team of dental professionals can help you get to the bottom of the issue. Our office is open six days a week and has appointment options in the early morning and later on in the evening. To get help solving your gum problems, contact us today to schedule an appointment at a time that works for you.