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Kathy asks:

"Why do my gums bleed when I floss?"

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Hi, Kathy! If you’re seeing red, don’t panic. It’s not uncommon to notice a little blood when you brush or floss your teeth.



Here are some reasons gums may bleed:

• Not flossing regularly can result in bleeding when you do, but this should stop once your gums get used to your flossing routine.

• Not brushing or flossing thoroughly may cause you to miss the same areas repeatedly. Those areas can become inflamed and bleed when you do reach them. Brush for a full two minutes and thoroughly clean around every tooth.

• Brushing or flossing too vigorously can cause gums to bleed. Be gentle when you brush and floss.

• Using a toothbrush with firm bristles can also cause bleeding. Choose a soft toothbrush.

• Hormonal changes during menstruation and pregnancy increase the flow of blood to the gums. This can make them more sensitive and lead to inflammation and bleeding.

• Medicine such as aspirin thins your blood and reduces clotting. This can also cause your gums to bleed easier.

Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis) can lead to inflamed, sensitive, swollen and tender gums that may bleed.



Here are some preventive measures:

• Maintain a balanced diet that includes vitamin C, which is essential for healthy gums. Get your daily dose from strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and bell peppers.

• Eat leafy greens such as kale and spinach, which are rich in vitamin K. Not in the mood for a salad? Try these greens in your smoothie or soup.

• Floss daily. This will prevent plaque from building up between your teeth and reduce your risk of cavities and gum disease. Here’s a little refresher on how it’s done:

1. Start with 18 to 24 inches of floss.

2. Use your thumb and index finger to guide the floss between each tooth.

3. Hold the floss tightly around each tooth in a C shape, moving the floss up and down against the sides of each tooth.

4. Repeat with each tooth. Don’t forget to floss behind the last back molar.


By brushing twice a day, flossing daily and maintaining a balanced diet, you can reduce the likelihood that you’ll be seeing red. Talk with your dentist and physician if your gums continue to bleed.