Abnormal bleeding from your gums may indicate a wide range of possible health risks and illnesses. While bleeding gums aren't always an indication for a possible health risk, such as gum bleeding from ill-fitting dentures, it is still important to see a dentist so he or she can run the proper tests and rule out other health conditions that can become serious if left undiagnosed.
Possible Health Risks
The most common indicator of bleeding gums is plaque buildup along the gum line, usually due to improper oral care. Two common forms of gum disease that are indicated by bleeding gums are:
- Gingivitis: caused by excessive plaque buildup, other symptoms may include swollen, tender gums. If left untreated, gingivitis will turn into periodontitis, a destructive form of gum disease.
- Periodontitis: often accompanied by other symptoms, such as bad breath and gum recession. If left untreated, the teeth may loosen and fall out.
Since periodontitis is inflammatory in nature, studies have also shown that serious cases may increase the risks of other health conditions, such as:
- Heart attack: fatal disease characterized as the death of heart cells due to interrupted blood flow to the heart.
- Stroke: caused by plaques that block off blood flow to the brain, can be debilitating and life threatening.
- Atherosclerosis: known as the hardening of the arteries, can be the precursor to heart attacks and strokes.
- Erectile dysfunction: inability to maintain an erection for sexual intercourse.
It is also important to note that bleeding gums can indicate other non-oral related health issues, such as:
- Diabetes: this is a metabolic disease that indicates problems in blood sugar levels and insulin production/absorption. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health problems.
- Leukemia: a form of cancer in the blood or bone marrow that is signified by a lack of clotting agents. Thus, bleeding gums may indicate its presence.
- Malnutrition: gum bleeding can indicate an insufficient intake of nutrients, and can be corrected by implementing a healthy diet.
- Vitamin C deficiency: also known as scurvy, symptoms include lethargy, shortness of breath and bone pain.
- Vitamin K deficiency: since vitamin K is important in blood coagulation, too little of this vitamin may lead to abnormal gum bleeding.
How to prevent bleeding gums
By maintaining general oral health, gum bleeding can be minimized. Some tips include:
- Annual oral exams and teeth cleaning by a certified dentist.
- Establishing a habit of correct flossing and brushing, at least twice a day
- Flossing and properly brushing after each meal.
- Drinking water after meals.
- Stop smoking and decrease or eliminate usage of any tobacco products.
Certain diets and food intake may also help minimize the chances of bleeding gums:
- Vitamin C: cures scurvy, which can cause abnormal gum bleeding. Excellent sources include citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits.
- Vitamin K: has coagulation properties and can help ward off gum bleeding. Excellent sources include bananas, spinach, and Swiss chard.
- Water: drinking after meals can help wash food remnants from the teeth and gum so bacteria-causing plaque is less likely to form. It is important to note that juices and sodas may not have the same effect, as they contain sugars that can detriment oral health.
- Fibrous fruits and vegetables: due to the high fiber content, these food products give an "exfoliation" effect that moves debris from teeth and gum surfaces similar to the effects of a toothbrush. Examples of such foods include strawberries, apples, and celery. It is important to note, however, that fibrous fruits and vegetables cannot replace teeth brushing and flossing.
Bleeding gums can indicate more than just a problem with your oral hygiene habits. If left unchecked, poor dental health can lead to serious complications with your health, especially heart problems.