Practicing good dental hygiene is important. Doing so keeps your teeth healthy and prevents things like cavities and improves gum health – which ultimately also prevents you from having to make extra trips to the dentist.

If you have gums that bleed – particularly after brushing your teeth or flossing, this is usually caused by a buildup of plaque. With regular hygiene appointments and continued at-home hygiene, this is something you can easily improve. However, if you’re not following good oral hygiene, this plaque buildup can turn into hardened tartar which can lead to increased bleeding as well as something known as gingivitis (affecting as many as 16 million Canadians) or periodontal disease (as it progresses), in which the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth become inflamed or infected due to bacteria in the mouth.

Warning signs and symptoms of gingivitis and periodontal disease include:

• Red, swollen gums
• Bleeding gums (especially when brushing or flossing)
• Painful gums
• Receding gums
• Painful chewing
• Sensitive teeth
• Loose teeth
• Changes to your bite
• Changes in the fit of dentures

There are also certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing gum problems, such as:

• Poor dental hygiene
• Being a smoker
• Diabetes
• Stress
• Old fillings
• Certain medications
• Hormonal changes
• Being immunocompromised
• Stress

As mentioned, practicing good dental hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease from developing. When it comes to brushing your teeth, it’s also important that you are following the proper technique – by using a small amount of toothpaste and aiming your toothbrush towards an angle at the gumline, rotating it in a gentle circular motion on both the outer and inside surfaces (an electric toothbrush is something you may also want to consider using.) When flossing your teeth, you should glide the floss gently in between the teeth. Once the floss reaches the gumline, move it in a C-like shape against the tooth and gently move it in the space between the tooth and the gums. In combination with brushing, this helps to reduce and remove plaque from in between the teeth and therefore reduces your risk of gum disease.

In some cases, bleeding gums could be an indicator of other health problems – such as certain vitamin deficiencies, or a type of blood cancer known as leukemia. If your gum bleeding persists, you should book an appointment with your dentist and/or physician for further evaluation.