What causes bleeding gums?

Bleeding gums most commonly result from inadequate plaque removal from the teeth at the gum line, resulting in a condition called gingivitis, or inflamed gums. Infection of the gum line is a common cause of bleeding gums. If plaque is not removed it will harden into what is called tartar, resulting in increased bleeding and potentially a more advanced form of gum and jawbone disease known as periodontitis.

Conditions that can cause bleeding gums include certain vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin K deficiency and vitamin C deficiency, which causes scurvy. Other bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia, leukemia, and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, can cause bleeding gums. The use of medications, such as blood thinners and chemotherapy agents, can also cause bleeding gums as a side effect.

Gum disease causes of bleeding gums

Bleeding gums may be caused by gum disease including:

  • Gingivitis (infection of the gums)
  • Periodontitis (infection of the gum line involving the teeth and bones)
  • Poorly fitting dentures or dental appliances

Medication causes of bleeding gums

Bleeding gums can also be caused by medications including:

  • Anticoagulants such as warfarin
  • Antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • Certain epilepsy, convulsion and seizure medications
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Immunosuppressant drugs

Other causes of bleeding gums

Bleeding gums can also be caused by other conditions including:

  • Any bleeding disorder such as hemophilia
  • Brushing teeth too vigorously
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy
  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), excessive bruising due to an insufficient number of platelets in the blood
  • Scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency)
  • Vitamin K deficiency

Serious or life-threatening causes of bleeding gums

In some cases, bleeding gums may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Adverse medication effect
  • Bleeding or platelet disorder
  • Leukemia
  • Toxic exposure or poisoning

Questions for diagnosing the cause of bleeding gums

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your bleeding gums including:

  • Is the bleeding from your gums a large amount?
  • When did the gum bleeding start?
  • How often do your gums bleed?
  • How vigorously do you brush?
  • What medications do you take?

What are the potential complications of bleeding gums?

Because bleeding gums can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Tooth loss

References:

  1. Gingivitis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002051/.
  2. Bleeding gums. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003062.htm.
  3. Mealey B, Genco R, Cohen W (Eds). Periodontics Medicine, Surgery, and Implants. St. Louis: Elsevier Mosby, 2004.
INTRODUCTION

What are bleeding gums?

Bleeding from the gums is a common symptom of gum disease. Bleeding gums are most commonly caused by inadequate plaque removal from the teeth at the gum line, resulting in inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). However, persistent gum bleeding may also be associated with serious medical conditions, such as leukemia and c... Read more about bleeding gumsintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with bleeding gums?

Bleeding gums may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Gum symptoms that may occur along with bleeding gums

Bleeding gums may accompany other symptoms affecting the gum area including:

  • Bad breath
  • Bright red or red-purple appearance to gums
Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health