Bleeding When Flossing: What Does It Mean?


Let’s face it: most people don’t floss like they should. As Colgate Oral Care Center reports: “If you’re guilty of sheepishly answering, ‘Not always,’ when asked by the dentist about teeth flossing, you’re not the only one. Some statistics say that nearly 80 percent of people don’t floss.” If you’re one of the four out of every five people who doesn’t exactly floss fantastically, it might be because your gums tend to bleed when you do. This can certainly be uncomfortable and unnerving, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what you may believe.

Dr. Cindy Flanagan and the rest of our Houston dental team are here to help you better understand your mouth. Read on to learn what bleeding when flossing really signifies, what causes it, and how you can comfortably care for your gums.

Common Causes of Bleeding

There are several potential sources of bleeding while flossing. These include:

  • Periodontal disease. The same plaque and bacteria that cause cavities can damage your gum tissue, making it more easily irritated by floss. In fact, bleeding gums are a symptom of gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. The American Academy of Periodontology reports: “half of American adults have periodontal disease,” so this is more than likely the cause of your bleeding.
  • Rough brushing. You might think that you’re more effectively cleaning your teeth by aggressively brushing, but the abrasion could actually do more harm than good. Your gums might bleed when flossed because your toothbrush has torn them up.
  • Pregnancy. Due to hormonal fluctuations, pregnant women are much more likely to suffer from gum disease. WebMD reports: “40% of women will develop gingivitis sometime during their pregnancy.” If you’re expecting, it’s especially important that you take care of your gums and treat any signs of gingivitis.
  • Smoking. Tobacco use degrades your gum tissue and makes you more prone to gum disease, which could cause inflammation and bleeding.
  • Bite issues. Prevention notes that your gums may bleed because “you’ve got an unbalanced bite. If you have teeth that aren’t quite lined up, crooked and crowded chompers, as well as grinding and clenching, you may have what’s called ‘bite disease.’” Technically, we’d call this maloclussion (misaligned top and bottom teeth) and bruxism (grinding). Prevention notes that, in this circumstance, “destructive forces are being applied to the teeth and the supporting gum tissue and bone” making you much more vulnerable to gum disease.
  • Side effects. Medications you’re taking to treat other conditions could be causing your gums to bleed. As Prevention explains: “some medications interfere with the blood flow to tissues or hamper saliva flow, leading to dry mouth and less protection to the gums…increasing periodontal disease progression.”

Preventing this Phenomenon

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to keep your gums from bleeding is to continue flossing. Keeping flossing as part of your daily routine is key, since it is the only way to remove plaque from the surfaces between teeth and up beneath the gums. Flossing is the number one tool at your disposal to fight gum disease and keep your gums from bleeding in the future.

In addition, Colgate recommends: “if your gums bleed when flossing, it may help to use a rinse to kill bacteria around the affected area. This keeps infection from spreading deeper into gums and the roots of teeth.”

Of course, depending on what’s contributing to your bleeding, you may also reduce your risk by stopping smoking, treating malocclusion or bruxism, changing medications, or seeking appropriate periodontal treatment from Dr. Flanagan.

How to Floss Properly

Implementing proper flossing technique can help you avoid bleeding and ensure that you’re protecting your gum health effectively. Colgate Oral Care Center describes the correct procedure: begin “with about 18 inches of floss, [winding] most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with.” Next, “holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth,” to remove the plaque therein. Continuing on, “gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline” so as to remove bacteria from this sensitive location. Colgate is careful to note: “never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue.” Throughout the flossing process, “use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth,” so as not to unintentionally spread plaque around, and “use the same back-and-forth motion” to “remove the floss,” carefully. If you have especially sensitive gums, you may “consider a water pick for flossing,” Preventionsuggests.

Do You Want More Flossing Tips?

Dr. Flanagan and our team will examine your gums and provide further flossing instruction at your preventive examination and cleaning appointment. You should schedule this type of visit at least twice a year. Contact our Houston dental practice today to make your next appointment.

Original Source:

This entry was posted in Oral Surgery. Bookmark the permalink.