What bleeding and receding gums tell you about your health – and how to stop it

Your mouth says a lot more about your overall health than you’d think. If you’ve noticed bleeding or receding gums, here’s what it means and tips to prevent it

Gum bleeding and inflammation close up.
Bleeding gums are a sign of plaque build-up which could later lead to gum disease

When life gets busy or stressful, your oral health can often suffer as many of may start skipping routine dental check-ups.

These check-ups are important as they can often reveal not just the health of teeth, tongue and gums but how healthy the rest of your body is.

Dr Safa Al-Naher, Director and principal dentist, at Serene Dental in Knightsbridge, London revealed that bleeding or receding gums are often the first sign of gum disease and an indication that something needs to change in our oral health routine.

But she said that many tend to overlook these issues, explaining: “Almost one in five (19%) immediately stop brushing the bleeding area and nearly one in ten (8%) stop brushing all together.

“Only 21% book a dental appointment to find out if they have a problem, and more than one in four (28%) discount the problem altogether.”

What do bleeding gums tell you about your oral health?

Many have likely experienced bleeding gums while brushing their teeth. While bleeding once in a while may simply be because you’ve brushed or flossed too hard, if it happens frequently it could be a sign of plaque build up.

Plaque forms when saliva and food debris mix together to form a sticky film on the teeth. It contains bacteria which can irritate the gums and cause them to become inflamed and bleed.

This can develop into gum disease but can also be a sign of other issues vitamin deficiencies, hormone changes in women, certain medications and a poor diet.

What do receding gums tell you about your oral health?

Bleeding gums may be because you brushed your teeth too hard, but may also be a sign of gum disease



If you’ve noticed your gums getting further away from your teeth, don’t dismiss it.

Receding gums is caused by bacteria that can damage the teeth and irritate the gums leading to tooth decay. Besides being a common sign of gum disease it can also increase risk of serious health complications such as stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.

Three easy ways to improve your oral hygiene

Brush twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste

Dr. Al-Naher explains that brushing our teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste improves teeth and gum health.

She said: “The best results are achieved if you brush last thing at night and first thing in the morning – ideally before you eat breakfast – using an electric toothbrush,” adding that it’s important to spend at least 30 seconds brushing every area of the mouth including the front, back, top and between each tooth.”

Use floss and a mouthwash

Brushing twice a day is the best way to ensure good oral health



A toothbrush can’t reach between your teeth in the same way floss can. Flossing helps remove plaque build-up in-between each tooth. Dr Al-Naher said: “When we first using floss, it can cause our gums to bleed. But it’s important to keep going. After a week or two the bleeding should stop.”

Similarly mouthwash helps to clear our mouths of extra debris, prevent plaque build-up on our gums and on the surface of our teeth in between brushing. It can also help to freshen our breath and kill bacteria.

Look at your diet and lifestyle

Dr Al-Naher said: “Adopting a healthy lifestyle is important in order for our mouth to function properly. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can help. Keep sugar to a minimum and have your sugar after meals rather than constant snacking throughout the day.”

Besides processed foods, habits like smoking or excessive alcohol consumption can affect the health of our mouths.

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