You went for your six-month dental cleaning at your local dental office and noticed afterward that you had bleeding gums. Is this normal? Was the dental hygienist too rough? As it turns out, it's common to find your gums bleeding after a dental cleaning but it isn’t "normal" if you have healthy gums.
Common Causes of Bleeding Gums
Healthy gums don't bleed, even with a professional cleaning. So if you have bleeding gums after a dental cleaning, this is always a sign that something's not right—whether it's a sign of gingivitis or gum disease (the most common cause), a sign of an incorrect flossing technique, a side effect of medications you're taking, or a symptom of dry mouth.
Gum disease arises when plaque builds up and gets under the gums. To fight the infection, antibodies come to the surface, making the gums swell and become red and painful. In this state, gums bleed very easily—especially when they come into contact with an instrument that cleans more deeply and thoroughly than your ordinary toothbrush.
Why It Matters
If hardened plaque (tartar) is not removed from your teeth, a gum infection can become deeper and eat away at the bone (periodontal disease or periodontitis). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47.2% of American adults aged 30 and above have some form of periodontitis, and its prevalence increases with age.
If left unchecked, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Periodontitis during pregnancy has also been associated with a six-fold increase in the risk of preterm delivery, so if you’re pregnant, make sure you have a dental check-up and nip any gingivitis in the bud.
What You Can Do
Even if it makes your gums bleed, going for professional dental cleaning can help you recover from gum disease before it gets worse. Ask your dental hygienist to check your brushing technique and brush according to your dentist’s instructions at home. You can also rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash to kill the bacteria that are affecting your gums.
If the bleeding hasn’t stopped after a week or two, see your dentist to have any underlying issues diagnosed and corrected (such as gingivitis or periodontitis) with the most appropriate non-surgical or surgical periodontal treatments for your case. The sooner your gums are healthy, the easier it will be for a dentist or dental surgeon to correct any gum recession and bone loss that have occurred. That’s why, in our own Beverly Hills practice, we address any bleeding issues before beginning any cosmetic dental procedures.
Incorrect Flossing Technique
Flossing is essential for preventing food particles from becoming lodged in your gums, which can lead to infection and tooth decay. However, flossing incorrectly can also cause bleeding gums. While this isn't directly connected with dental cleanings, it's possible that you might have flossed straight up and down—instead of in a C shape—and cut your gum. Usually, you would see any blood from a cut gum right away. However, it's possible that a dental cleaning could cause the cut to open and bleed.
How to Floss Correctly
First, remove any larger pieces of food with your tongue or a toothbrush. Then, take the floss gently up the side curves of each tooth (in a C shape) to remove any smaller particles that have become stuck in the gum line. Then, brush your teeth as normal.
Some medications—such as blood thinners—could cause you to bleed more easily than people who don't take these medications. If your gums tend to bleed when you go for a dental cleaning, tell your dentist that you take blood thinners to help him or her make a correct diagnosis and prescribe the most appropriate dental treatments and medications for any oral health issues you might have.
Dry gum tissue is more easily damaged than moist gum tissue, making bleeding gums after dental cleanings more likely for:
People who snore
People who wear a c-pap machine at night
Athletes, runners, and hikers
People with long-term allergic rhinitis or recurrent sinusitis
People who take medications (most cause dry mouth)
People who smoke cannabis or tobacco
If any of these apply to you and your gums bleed after dental cleanings, discuss your risk factors with your dentist. He or she can recommend an appropriate dental hygiene routine to help you maintain healthy gums.
With Good Dental Hygiene, Bleeding Gums Should Soon Heal
The most important thing to remember is that you can usually stop bleeding gums in a week or two by flossing and brushing properly and by using an antibacterial mouthwash.
If your gums continue to bleed more than a week or two after a professional cleaning, see your dentist for a more thorough evaluation of your periodontal and dental health.