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Why your gums bleed when you floss and if you should stop flossing

Bleeding gums when you floss is a very common occurrence and is usually a sign of inflammation in the gums rather than an indication you should stop flossing. The bleeding is often caused by gingivitis, which is a mild form of gum disease triggered by a buildup of plaque along and under the gumline. Plaque is a sticky film composed of bacteria, food debris, and saliva. When left on the teeth, plaque begins to irritate and inflame the gums, making them tender, red, swollen, and likely to bleed when pressure is applied such as during flossing.

Gingivitis is quite common, affecting around 50% of adults at some point. The good news is it is reversible through improved oral hygiene. By flossing daily, you can remove the disease-causing plaque and help your gums heal and strengthen over time. It may take a week or two of consistent flossing for your gums to stop bleeding when you floss. The bleeding should steadily decrease during that time as the inflammation subsides.

It is important not to stop flossing if you notice bleeding. While the blood can seem alarming, avoiding flossing will allow more plaque to accumulate and make the problem worse. The more days you go without flossing, the longer it will take for your gums to strengthen and heal when you resume your routine. Consistency is key for building healthy gums that stay firm and plaque-free.

If the bleeding persists longer than a couple weeks of daily flossing, however, it could be a sign of a more serious issue such as advanced periodontal disease. In that case, the bleeding would also likely be accompanied by other symptoms such as chronic bad breath, receding gums, tooth pain or increased sensitivity, and tooth loosening. If your bleeding concerns do not improve within 10-14 days of diligent oral care, make an appointment with your dentist right away for an exam.

To help your gum bleeding situation, be sure you are flossing correctly. Use gentle pressure and a sawing motion instead of snapping the floss down. Curve the floss around the tooth in a C-shape against the side, not just up and down between teeth. Go below the gumline but avoid excessive digging. Finish by rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash. Practicing this technique daily along with brushing twice a day will have your gums healed and healthy in no time. But do reach out to your dentist if problems persist beyond a couple of weeks. Consistent oral hygiene coupled with professional dental cleanings and care is the key to strong, resilient gums for life.