The American Dental Association states that if your gums are bleeding, it could be a sign of gingivitis or poor dental hygiene, and you should be sure to brush and floss at least twice a day to improve your symptoms. But a new study from the University of Washington suggests bleeding gums may also indicate that you need more vitamin C.

The study suggests that if you notice blood coming from your gums, you should not add more brushing; instead, you should try to determine why your gums are bleeding. Generally, this requires a trip to see us, your dentist, at Legends Dental.

The Washington study, published Feb. 1 in Nutrition Reviews, reviewed 15 previously published studies from six countries, which had 1,140 healthy participants. The study also analyzed data taken from 8,210 U.S. residents who participated in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Their analysis found that people who experienced bleeding gums after gentle probing and and those who experienced bleeding in the eye, known as retinal hemorrhaging, had low vitamin C levels.

The study also found that upping your daily intake of vitamin C can reverse bleeding gums.

Another notable revelation was that gum bleeding and retinal bleeding may indicate an issue with your microvascular system and could mean the potential for bleeding in the brain, heart and kidney, which could also indicate the potential for a stroke.

Note: We're not saying drinking a glass of OJ or eating a grapefruit every day can lower your risk of stroke or other serious health outcomes. But if your gums are bleeding, it's worth a closer look to determine what is going on with your mouth (and overall health) instead of just brushing more.

The Signs of Gum Problems

Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is a bacterial infection of your gum tissue caused by the bacteria that live in the sticky plaque that can build up along your teeth and gums if you don't brush and floss regularly. And if not properly treated, it can result in the destruction of your gums, tooth loss and chronic illness.

The early form of gum disease is gingivitis. At this stage, the signs include:

  • Swollen or puffy gums
  • Red gums
  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • Bad breath despite how much you brush
  • Receding gums (gums that pull away from your teeth)
  • Tender gums (gums that hurt when you eat or drink)
  • Sensitive teeth

If gingivitis progresses, it can turn into periodontitis, a more severe condition that causes the gum tissue and other soft tissues to pull away from the teeth, leading to the development of pockets. These pockets collect food debris and bacteria and can become infected.

When infected gum pockets are not treated, poisons and toxins can develop, breaking down the bone and connective tissue that keep your teeth in place. As the condition progresses, your risk of tooth loss goes up.

What Causes Gum Disease?

As we mentioned above, dental plaque is the primary culprit behind gum conditions, but other factors can contribute to the situation, too. These factors include:

  • Hormonal changes. When hormones fluctuate during pregnancy, puberty, menopause or menstruation, gums can become more sensitive and even swollen.
  • Illnesses. Some chronic diseases can also affect the health of your gums, including cancer, HIV and diabetes.
  • Medications. Some prescription medications, such as those used to treat seizures, heart disease and mood disorders, can impact gum health because they reduce saliva production. Saliva helps protect your teeth and gums.
  • Bad habits. Behaviors such as smoking and increased alcohol consumption can damage your gums. Recreational drugs can also impact your gum and oral health.
  • Poor oral hygiene. Don't brush or floss your teeth regularly? You're making it easy for dental plaque to take over and cause gingivitis.
  • Genetics. For some individuals, their DNA can contribute to the development of gingivitis and other dental problems.

How Is Gum Disease Treated?

The goals of gum disease treatment include:

  • Facilitating the reattachment of your gum tissue to your teeth
  • Reducing gum swelling
  • Reducing the depth of gum pockets
  • Minimizing the risk of infection
  • Stopping the progression of gum disease

Gum disease treatments can range from oral antibiotics, antibiotic rinses, manual removal of bacteria (known as root planing and scaling) and surgical treatments. Treatment depends on the severity of your condition.

Seeing the Signs of Gum Disease?

If you're seeing the signs of gum disease or you're noticing your gums are bleeding when you brush, please call us to schedule an exam or regular cleaning. We'll work to determine your condition's cause and treat you if we find evidence of periodontal problems.