Why you should not neglect bleeding gums

If you dread biting into an apple due to the fear of seeing your blood on it, it’s time you see a dentist for your bleeding gums. They could be an indication of something as simple as bad oral hygiene which can easily be taken care of to diseases like leukemia and dengue.

So, what causes gum bleeding?

One of the reasons is infection due to improper brushing and flossing. If you do not practice proper dental hygiene, bacteria in the mouth form plaque on your teeth. The gums become swollen, resulting in bleeding gums. If plaque is not removed through regular brushing, it will harden to form tartar leading to a more advanced form of gum disease known as periodontitis.

Did you know that improper position of teeth can also cause bleeding gums? If your teeth are not well aligned, it is very difficult to effectively clean them. Such teeth become more prone to tartar deposits leading to gum bleeding.

Faulty or irritating tooth fillings and denturesis another reason. Sometimes, fillings are not done properly and cause an overhang over the gums, causing irritation. They may also be a source for collection of food debris which further irritates your gums. Ill-fitting dentures may impinge on your gums and also trap food and bacteria.

Bleeding gums can be seen if there is nutritional deficiency. Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy manifesting as spongy, bleeding gums. It is also the most common sign of Vitamin K deficiency in the mouth. Gum disease can happen more often, be more severe, and take longer to heal if you have diabetes.

If you are a woman, hormonal changes can cause bleeding of gums at certain times in their life like puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Increased hormones during puberty can increase blood flow to the gums, making them red and swollen. Some women are more likely to have swollen gums that bleed shortly before each menstrual period which typically subsides after the period begins.  Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that can make your gums more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque. This manifests as swollen, red gums that bleed when they floss or brush – a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis. Though uncommon, some women going through menopause may have gums that are dry, sore and likely to bleed. Declining estrogen during menopause may cause less blood to reach the gums causing them to shrink and open up pockets for plaque to flourish.

If you’ve been on medications like anticoagulants (blood thinners), certain antidepressants, antihistamines, some seizure medications, immunosuppressants, chemotherapy drugs and high blood pressure drugs for a while, chances are that you’re suffering from bleeding gums. The use of oral birth control products that contain progesterone may cause similar gum problems. Blood pressure medications can cause a build-up of gum tissue overgrowth which creates a favourable environment for bacteria.

The first signs of leukaemia may show up in an unexpected place – the mouth. Often a patient with leukemia visits a dentist for treatment of red, swollen gums that bleed easily, not suspecting that this could be more than a gum problem. Watch out for other signs and symptoms of leukaemia such as ulceration of the mouth, rapid loosening of the teeth combined with feeling weak and losing weight for no apparent reason.

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a bleeding disorder in which the blood doesn’t clot as it should due to low blood platelets. If you have ITP, there is bleeding from the gums when you get a dental treatment done.

Another blood disorder which can cause bleeding gums is Haemophilia, a genetic bleeding disorder that causes abnormal or exaggerated bleeding and poor blood clotting.

One disease that seems to rear its ugly head every monsoon and affects people all over the country is dengue. Bleeding gums could be one of the tell-tale signs and this is due to the low platelet count that is a feature of the disease.

Summing it up, do not neglect bleeding gums. They do more than help support your teeth. Who knows, your next dental visit could save your life!

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