Why are my gums bleeding?

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There are many reasons why your gums may be bleeding but one of the most common causes is gums disease or gingivitis.

Inadequate plaque removal can lead to bleeding gums. Plaque contains germs that harm the healthy tissues around our teeth.¹ When plaque builds up, gums begin to swell and become sensitive, leading to bleeding during flossing or brushing.

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Common causes of bleeding gums


Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease.² When plaque build-up increases, it affects your gum line and typically leads to gingivitis. This can lead to painful symptoms, such as gum irritation, swelling, and bleeding.

Brushing your teeth and flossing can help you get rid of this ailment. You may also need to schedule an appointment with your dentist for a professional cleaning.


Failure to treat Gingivitis can cause the condition of your teeth to worsen and continue to lead to periodontitis or periodontal disease. Periodontal diseases are caused by plaque, which contains bacteria that produces toxins. If your teeth are not cleaned well, toxins in the plaque can irritate and inflame your gums. Inflamed gums can pull away from your teeth and form spaces called pockets, which trap plaque and can’t be removed with brushing. If plaque stays on your teeth, it can harden and form tartar, which can only be removed when teeth are cleaned at a dental office.³

The long-term condition can cause lasting damage to the bone and tissue of your teeth, leading to infection and inflammation. 

New flossing routine

If you just started flossing or you’re flossing different, your gums may bleed at first as they get used to cleaning between the teeth. This usually goes away on its own in about a week.⁴


Some pregnant women develop a condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis,” an inflammation of the gums that can cause swelling and tenderness.⁵ Continue your regular dental appointments during pregnancy for oral examinations and professional teeth cleaning. Tell your dentist that you are pregnant and about any changes you have noticed in your oral health.

Brushing too hard

Your gums could be bleeding if you brush too hard. Use an extra-soft or soft-bristled toothbrush when brushing your teeth.⁶


Numerous prescription drugs can increase your risk of gum-related diseases. Some of these medications include blood thinners, anti-depressants and oral contraceptives. Your dentist or doctor can help you identify medication that can affect your gums.⁷


Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar.  Both Type I and Type II diabetes result in high blood sugar levels. Poor blood sugar control can lead to gum disease. Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes, affecting nearly 22% of those diagnosed.

Treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in people living with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease. Practicing good oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings done by your dentist can help.⁸ 


If your gums bleed during brushing and the bleeding doesn’t stop on its own, you may have sensitive gums or thrombocytopenia. In this condition, the body finds it hard to form a blood clot due to a lack of platelets. Failure to treat this condition can lead to bleeding in different parts of the body and not just your gums.⁹

Lack of vitamin K

When gums bleed excessively, it could also signal that your body lacks sufficient Vitamin K. Since this vitamin makes four of the 12 proteins needed for blood clotting, which stops wounds from continuously bleeding, you must ensure that your body gets or absorbs enough of this vitamin to prevent bleeding.¹⁰


People with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are at a higher risk of developing gum diseases than other people. That’s because your platelet count is low when you have cancer.¹¹ Schedule an appointment with your dentist if anyone in your family is experiencing tender or bleeding gums.

How to prevent bleeding gums

Maintaining a strict oral hygiene routine can help you avoid bleeding gums. Your oral health routine should include flossing, brushing, rinsing with mouthwash, and visiting your dentist regularly.

What to expect from your dental insurance plan

While bleeding gums are among the most common symptoms of gum diseases, they can also signal a major underlying disease. Enrolling in dental insurance will help ensure you never have to miss your appointment or skip a professional cleaning.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.


  1. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/bleeding-gums (Last accessed February 2020)

  2. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/g/gingivitis (Last accessed February 2020)

  3. http://www.ada.org/en/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/ADA\_PatientSmart\_Perio\_Disease, 2012)

  4. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/bleeding-gums.aspx (Last accessed February 2020)

  5. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/bleeding-gums.aspx (Last accessed February 2020)

  6. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/bleeding-gums.aspx (Last accessed February 2020)

  7. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/bleeding-gums.aspx (Last accessed February 2020)

  8. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diabetes (Last accessed February 2020)

  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thrombocytopenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378293, 2018)

  10. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-k/  (Last accessed February 2020)

  11. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-myeloid-leukemia/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html, 2018


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