a woman flossing her teeth

One question dentists often hear is “Should I stop flossing if my gums are bleeding?” And while bleeding gums while flossing can be upsetting for some, it is actually a sign that you should be flossing more often. Flossing is an essential element of a strong oral practice routine, as it is impossible to effectively clean the teeth with brushing alone. For this reason, flossing should never be skipped, even if it causes some bleeding of the gums.  

Why Do My Gums Bleed When I Floss? 

One of the most common causes of bleeding gums while flossing is infrequent flossing. In most cases, as you floss more regularly, the bleeding will stop within a few weeks.  

If you notice that your gums are bleeding when you floss, take this as a sign to take control of your oral health and hygiene. When you don’t floss, you aren’t removing harmful plaque and bacteria, which when left on and beneath the gums can cause irritation and inflammation.  

When Should I Be Concerned About Bleeding Gums When Flossing? 

For many people, bleeding gums is a sign of the onset of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. The two most common types of periodontal disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is caused by bacteria from the food you eat that isn’t properly removed with brushing and flossing. This bacteria then turns into sticky plaque that builds up on the surface of your teeth.  

Gingivitis is commonly seen among children and adults alike. When plaque isn’t effectively removed consistently, it hardens into tartar, increasing the risk of tooth decay and periodontitis. 

When bacteria, plaque, and tartar are left along your gum line, they cause irritation and inflame the gum tissue. Sometimes the gums become pale and begin to pull away from the teeth. When attempts to remove the buildup of plaque by brushing or flossing, the swollen and irritated gums will bleed.  

If gingivitis is left untreated, it progresses to periodontitis.  Periodontitis is considered to be the most advanced form of gum disease and can lead to increased gum sensitivity, recession of the gums, and ultimately tooth loss.  

How Can I Prevent My Gums From Bleeding When Flossing? How Do I Floss My Teeth Properly? 

While brushing is effective at removing damaging plaque and bacteria from the teeth’ surfaces, even the most advanced toothbrushes aren’t able to reach plaque in all the cracks and crevices between the teeth, and beneath the gum line. This is where flossing plays such an important role. With proper technique, flossing can get in the tight spaces between the teeth and below the gums to properly remove any bacteria and plaque before it becomes tartar, which is much harder to remove.  

To properly floss, use soft floss and slide it between the teeth, gently moving it back and forth. Next, press it against the side of your tooth and slide it up and down against the surface of the tooth, reaching the gum line. Remember to always be gentle when flossing, and to never “snap” the floss against your gums.  

When starting a new routine of flossing, light bleeding is considered to be normal. This light bleeding should subside within several minutes, and the bleeding should stop altogether within a week or two of flossing regularly.  

If the bleeding is heavier or isn’t improving after regularly flossing for a couple of weeks, you should see your dentist or doctor as soon as possible. In some cases, persistently bleeding gums could mean that you’re flossing incorrectly, or it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. The bottom line is that healthy and properly cared for gums rarely bleed as a result of flossing. Bleeding gums are a sign that you need to step up your oral health routine and pay attention to the health and care of your teeth and gums. If you want to learn more about proper flossing techniques or how we can help you achieve optimal oral health and wellness, contact our Guelph Dentist’s office today!  

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