Healthy gums are pink and firm and do not bleed easily. Occasionally your gums may bleed if you brush your teeth and gums too hard, use a hard-bristled toothbrush, or snap dental floss hard against your gums. Be gentle with your teeth; use a soft-bristled tooth brush and floss carefully to help prevent this problem.
Early-stage gum disease (gingivitis) causes red, swollen gums that bleed easily when brushed. Because gingivitis usually doesn't cause pain, many people delay treatment. If not treated, gum disease can cause more serious problems with the gum tissue.
As gum disease gets worse, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets where plaque can hide and cause further damage. This stage of gum disease is called periodontitis or periodontal disease and is caused by long-term infection of the gums, bone, and other tissues that surround and support the teeth. It can progress until the bones that support the teeth are damaged. In this late stage, teeth may become loose and fall out or need to be removed. Early treatment of gum disease is important to prevent tooth loss. As gum disease gets more severe (periodontitis), it becomes harder to treat.
Other causes of gum bleeding, swelling, and pain include:
- Pregnancy, blood-thinning medicines, or bleeding disorders. Each of these can cause gums to bleed easily.
- Lack of vitamins, such as vitamin K or vitamin C, or medical problems, such as anemia, that interfere with the body's ability to absorb certain vitamins.
- Teething in babies and young children. For more information, see the topic Teething.
- Medicines such as Dilantin or calcium channel blockers.
- Dentures or a dental appliance that irritates the gums.
- An infection around the root of the tooth. Swelling and redness, sometimes with pus, may appear at the base of a tooth.
Smoking and using other tobacco products increases your risk for gum disease. Smokers have a higher chance of having gum disease throughout their mouths than nonsmokers.
You may not have symptoms of bleeding or swollen gums because the normal bleeding immune response is affected by tobacco use. Chewing tobacco or using snuff may push the gums back in the area of the mouth where the tobacco is inserted. Constant irritation caused by tobacco products increases your risk of oral cancer.