Bleeding Gums Begone! Improve Gum Health with 8 Easy Habits

You’re following your routine of flossing and brushing your teeth, and then you see it.

Red.

Right there, on the string of your floss or the bristles of your toothbrush. Your mind races - were you applying too much pressure? Did you eat something red earlier in the day? Is it...blood?

Odds are, it probably is. 80 to 90 percent of people experience bleeding gums at some point in their lives - but just because it’s common doesn’t mean you should be okay with it.

Bleeding Gums are an Early Sign of Gum Disease

Seeing a little bit of blood isn’t a reason to panic; it just means you need to start paying closer attention to how you’re caring for your gums.

Teeth seem to get all the attention in the world of oral health, but gums are just as important. Think of your smile like a great movie or TV series; your teeth might be the stars of the show, but they still need a strong supporting cast to hold everything together.

Gum disease happens in multiple stages, which is why addressing it early is so important. The process looks like this:

1. Early Gum Disease

You’ll notice occasional puffiness and soreness in your gums, and may experience bleeding while flossing or brushing your teeth.

2. Gingivitis

There’ll be pronounced redness, inflammation, soreness, and temperature sensitivity in your gums, and you’ll find that they bleed easily.

3. Periodontitis

You’ll see your gums getting darker and beginning to pull back from your teeth at the gum-line, and may notice your teeth feeling looser.

At the later stages of gum disease, your biggest concern won’t be bleeding gums - it’ll be lost teeth, and that’s a much more alarming (and costly) problem to solve. As a dentist, we never want to see things get to that point, and we bet you don’t either, so here’s what you can do to steer clear of bleeding gums and look after your gum health.

8 Habits to Improve Gum Health

1) Don’t rush the basics.

What to do:

Be mindful of your daily oral health routine! 

It isn’t enough to just have your floss or toothbrush in your mouth and then turn your attention elsewhere. If your brain is on autopilot and you’re just going through the motions, you need to snap out of it and pay careful attention to how you’re cleaning your teeth.

How to do it:

Make sure you’re reaching those nooks and crannies in your mouth while you’re flossing, and be sure to take a full two minutes - longer if you need to - and get the bristles of your toothbrush right up near the gum-line.

2) Get gum-specific support.

What to do:

Today, there are plenty of at-home options specifically designed to help you maintain better gum health. 

So, when you’re choosing dental hygiene products, don’t simply buy whatever’s cheap, familiar, or convenient; instead, take some time to look at the specialized care products on the market and see how they can help you achieve and maintain proper gum health. 

How to do it:

In general, I’d recommend...

  • Choosing a brush with softer bristles
  • Adding a water flosser to your routine
  • Switching to or starting to use a gum-focused mouthwash
  • Changing to a toothpaste specifically for gum health

You don’t need to add all of those things at once; you can start with one that’s easy to include in your routine and see how it works for you.

3) Manage your nutrition.

What to do:

You can improve your gum health by making changes to your diet.

The right vitamins and minerals can make it harder for gum disease to take root. Vitamin D and calcium, for example, help to strengthen your gums and teeth, while vitamins C, K, and B2 reduce swelling and make your gums more resistant to infection.

How to do it:

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to food, so you’ll want to start by researching which foods are rich in the vitamins and minerals mentioned above.

From there, you can start to plan out how to include more of those foods in your diet. It takes a bit of work up front, but it’s 100% worth it to protect your gums.

4) Skimp on the sugar.

What to do:

The bacteria on your teeth love sugar - so you want to make sure they get as little of it as possible.

More sugar means more plaque on your teeth, and if it isn’t removed, that plaque will harden into tartar near and below the gum-line, which is a recipe for more serious forms of gum disease like gingivitis and periodontitis.

How to do it:

If you’re like a lot of people, you probably can’t or don’t want to cut sugar out of your diet entirely - and you don’t need to! Just be mindful of how much sweet food you eat, and remember to rinse your mouth with water once you’ve finished eating.

5) Stay hydrated.

What to do:

A dry mouth is a less-protected mouth, so keeping your body well-hydrated is a big part of maintaining good gum health. Saliva naturally helps to clear food particles and bacteria from the surface of your teeth; if your body isn’t getting enough water, it also won’t be producing enough saliva to properly protect your gums. 

How to do it:

It’s often said that 8-10 cups of water per day is ideal, but in our experience it really depends on what your body needs. If you feel like your mouth is still dry when you’re drinking that much, you can aim to drink more plus chew sugar-free gum to encourage saliva production.

6) Stow those smokes.

What to do:

Stop smoking, plain and simple. The heat from smoking dries out your mouth (which, as we just pointed out, is a big no-no) and irritates your gums, making them more prone to inflammation and infection. Tobacco products are especially bad, since they have an added drying effect that makes your mouth even more vulnerable to gum disease.

How to do it:

Quitting is one option, but it isn’t the only one; these days there are plenty of alternatives to lighting up, from patches to sprays and edibles. I think it’s safe to say that having teeth and a whole smile are definitely worth the effort.

7) Watch your overall health.

What to do:

Your whole body is a connected system, so if you have a chronic disease like high blood pressure or diabetes, you should figure out whether it affects your gum health and - if it does - how that impacts your gum care routine.

How to do it:

The best thing to do is regularly check in with your doctor and dentist - not just to understand how you can manage your overall health and gum health together, but also to make sure that, if there are any concerns, that they’re being detected as early as possible.

8) Stick to your checkup schedule.

What to do:

A dentist telling you to come in for your checkups? Surprise, surprise! But seriously - even if visiting the dentist for polishing and scaling isn’t your favourite thing, your gums will thank you for it. 

How to do it:

It all depends on why you’re missing your appointments. If you feel like it’s because you’re too busy, plan out your appointments in advance (and commit to them!); if it’s because you’re anxious about the treatment experience, ask your dentist about conscious or full sedation; and if it’s budget-related, check if they have financing or membership options to help with affordability.

Regular cleanings are essential: taking off several months’ worth of stuck on tartar and getting those hard-to-reach areas cleaned goes a long, long way towards keeping your gums strong and healthy.

Get Healthier Gums

There’s a silver lining to having seen a little bit of blood while flossing or brushing - it means you now know exactly how to improve your oral care routine to make bleeding gums a thing of the past.

But remember: knowing isn’t enough - having healthy gums takes effort, and that part is up to you. If you still have questions and live in Port Coquitlam, the Tri-Cities, or anywhere in Metro Vancouver, feel free to drop by for a visit at Glen Dental Centre. We’ll be happy to chat with you about your gum health specifically, and introduce you to options like sedation that can take the anxiety out of general dentistry and help your gums get the care they need.

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