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Gingival bleeding is often a sign of inflammation, the body’s defense reaction to irritation caused by bacteria. Inflamed gums are reddish, often slightly swollen and bleed, for instance when you brush your teeth. Gingivitis can also cause bad taste in your mouth as well as bad breath. 

Gingivitis is caused by an accumulation of bacteria (plaque) on the gumline or between teeth. Sometimes, a piece of food firmly stuck between teeth may also cause gingivitis between individual teeth.


Bleeding gums can and should be cleaned. If your gum bleeds when you brush your teeth, brush the area more often and more carefully than usual for a few days. As the inflammation diminishes, gingival bleeding will stop. In addition to thorough brushing, you can use chlorhexidine-containing mouthwash or brush your teeth with chlorhexidine gel for a short period of time (about a week).

Gingivitis can be prevented through regular and thorough oral care. Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste every morning and evening. Use dental floss, a dental floss pick and/or interdental brush between teeth for daily cleaning. If the bacterial plaque remains on the tooth surface for a long period of time, minerals from the saliva will precipitate onto it. This results in the formation of dental calculus which cannot be brushed off. 

Smoking reduces blood flow in the gums and impairs the immune system. Gingivitis may progress unnoticed in smokers, as gingival bleeding may not occur at all.

When should you seek treatment?

You should see a dentist or oral hygienist if thorough cleaning of teeth and between teeth doesn’t reduce gingival bleeding within a few weeks.

Treatment of gingivitis

Gingivitis is treated by removing the bacterial coating and dental calculus from teeth surfaces by a professional. The treatment outcome is not lasting if dental self-care is not carried out according to the instructions.

Information sources: The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim, Terveysportti, Lääkärin tietokanta database

FSHS Dentist / 24 February 2023

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