Why are my gums bleeding?

Q. I know that I should floss but every time I do, my gums bleed and are sore.  If flossing is good for me, why do my gums bleed?

A.  Although many patients find this concerning, some soreness and bleeding is common when one begins to floss.  The flossing is not the primary cause of the bleeding, however.


Your gums bleed because they have plaque and calculus sitting next to them.  Plaque and calculus contain bacteria.  This bacteria produces acids that irritate the gums. If you have bleeding with flossing, this usually means that you are not removing the plaque and calculus often enough.   This is the same reason that your gums may bleed during dental cleanings.

If the plaque and calculus are not removed on a regular basis, this irritation of the gums, also known as gingivitis, will lead to gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is the body’s attempt to create a buffer between itself and the source of  irritation.  Over time, the bone around the teeth is resorbed and the teeth become loose.

If one simply continues with daily flossing, the irritation will fade away and the gums will cease bleeding during flossing.  Better yet, the gums and bone that form the foundation for your teeth will be preserved and will keep your teeth chewing for decades.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been in the flossing routine, here’s a refresher course:


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