Are you suffering from bleeding gums? The following article explains what may be causing your gums to bleed and how to prevent and treat it.
Is Bleeding Gum Normal?
Gum is a layman’s term for the ‘gingiva’ in the mouth which refers to the part of the oral mucosal tissue that covers the alveolar processes(bone) of the jaw and surrounds the neck of the teeth.
In a normal healthy person, the gum is always pink in color. This color may become slightly darker or lighter based on the melanin pigment of the individual. The normal gum is also firm and fixed. It’s never loose or movable.
If you have bleeding gums in your mouth, it is not a normal occurrence. Healthy gingiva doesn’t bleed. Gum bleeding indicates the presence of an underlying cause, that is making your gums bleed.
Bleeding gums is the way your body tries to make you aware of a possible underlying threat, which may be sometimes serious and other times not.
What Causes Bleeding Gums?
Gum bleeding may be caused due to a variety of reasons. The reasons for the gingival bleeding can be broadly divided into two categories for reference purposes.
Local factors and General factors.
Local Factors Causing Gum Bleeding
The term ‘local factors’ here refers to the causative agents that are localized to the area of gums and surrounding structures only and do not necessarily have a relation with the general body health of the individual.
Most common causative agents of gum bleeding under this category are
The most common reason for bleeding gums in humans is gingivitis. Gingivitis is the gingival inflammation or gum swelling. Dental plaque is the main reason why gingivitis is caused. In the case of plaque-induced gingivitis, gum bleeding may be observed on the slight application of pressure.
In severe cases, gums may start to bleed spontaneously without any external triggers. In gingivitis, the underlying bone is not affected and the inflammation and infection are confined to the gums region only.
Periodontitis is the inflammation of the periodontium, the underlying bone and other structures that lie below the gingiva. This is an advanced stage of gingivitis and is usually accompanied by underlying bone loss.
Gum bleeding is commonly observed in individuals suffering from periodontitis. There may be pus discharge too, along with the bleeding gums, in case of severe infection.
Trauma to the gum is another common cause of gingival bleeding. The injury to the gums caused while eating hard food items, such as while eating an apple or chewing on a bone piece, can cause the gums to bleed. Also, major accidents or fracture of the jaws can also cause profuse bleeding in the gums.
Allergic reactions to certain material we use on a regular basis may also result in gum irritation and bleeding. This is rare but possible. Allergies to the restorative materials used in fillings, toothpaste, mouthwashes, chewing gums, and foods, belong to this category.
General Factors Causing Gum Bleeding
The term ‘general factors’ here refers to the conditions which also affect the general body health and/or involve multiple organs in the body. There are numerous general health reasons that may be the cause of bleeding gums in humans. Below are the important ones.
Diseases Modified by Systemic Factors
The endocrine changes in humans that are linked to puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and diabetes may exaggerate the gingival response to the dental plaque present in the mouth, causing gum diseases associated with gum bleeding.
Medications Causing Gingival Bleeding
There are certain drugs consumption of which is known to cause gingival overgrowth and bleeding in humans. Most common drugs adversely affecting the gum health are anticonvulsant drugs such as phenytoin, immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclosporine, and calcium channel blockers such as nifedipine, verapamil, diltiazem, and sodium valproate.
In the case of leukemia and other blood dyscrasias, due to the excessive infiltration of malignant blood cells, the gingiva becomes swollen, becomes reddish and starts to bleed. This is due to the reduced number of immunocompetent lymphocytes in the periodontal tissues.
The deficiency of vitamin C, otherwise known as Ascorbic acid, is the most common reason for bleeding gums under this category.
Bacterial Infections Causing Gum Bleeding
Under this category, diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhea and syphilis, are the common causes of gum disease and bleeding. This is due to the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Treponema pallidum, that are found in individuals affected by these particular diseases. Rarely conditions like Streptococcal gingivitis may also cause gingival inflammation and profuse bleeding preceded by tonsillitis.
Viral Infections Causing Bleeding Gums
Variety of deoxyribonucleic acid and ribonucleic acid viruses are known to cause gum diseases and bleeding. The most common is the herpes virus. Secondary infections caused in individuals suffering from HIV may also result in gum bleeding.
Bleeding gums caused due to fungal infection isn’t very common in individuals with healthy immunity levels. However, in immunocompromised individuals and in people who are on a long term use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, fungal infections may affect the gingival health. Most common fungal infection affecting the mouth is Candidiasis.
One of the most clinically evident genetic conditions resulting in gingival disease and bleeding is ‘hereditary gingival fibromatosis’. It presents itself in autosomal-dominant or (rarely) autosomal-recessive modes of genetic inheritance.
How to Treat the Bleeding Gums?
The treatment for gum bleeding totally depends on the cause. So the treatment plan may vary from individual to individual.
Oral Prophylaxis and Dental Scaling
If you are suffering from gum bleeding the first step you can take to cure it is, visit your dentist ASAP. As mentioned earlier, the most common cause of bleeding gums is the plaque-induced gingivitis.
So the removal of dental plaque solves the problem of gingival bleeding in most cases. The dentist will most probably do oral prophylaxis which involves dental scaling, curettage and root planing, depending on the severity of the disease.
Treating the Underlying Causes
In the case of gingival bleeding which happens as a secondary reaction to an underlying condition or disease, treating the underlying cause may be the only way to cure the bleeding gums.
Bleeding Caused Due to Drugs
This usually stops when the medication itself is stopped or is changed.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Gingival bleeding caused due to Vitamin C deficiency can be treated by managing the deficiency itself. Intake of Vitamin C rich food items such as orange usually shows an impressive recovery in the condition. Your doctor may also prescribe pharmacological supplements for the vitamin c deficiency based on the severity of the case.