Why Do My Gums Bleed When I Floss?

Why Do My Gums Bleed When I Floss?


“Why do my gums bleed when I floss?” is a question patients ask us regularly. This is particularly the case if you only floss sporadically. And can make some people think they are better off not flossing or cleaning these areas.

If your gums are bleeding, it’s easy to feel concerned. But if you are new to flossing or haven’t flossed in some time, bleeding gums are usually very normal (1). It’s a bit like going to the gym. The more you do it, the less it hurts.

If you see bleeding around the gums, the most likely cause of this is plaque or bacteria around the area irritating the gums. The body tries to fend off the bacteria by sending inflammation to the area. This results in a puffy shiny appearance to the gums and in these areas. The skin may be thin, so these sites tend to bleed very easily.

Look for:

  • Red shiny gums
  • Puffy appearance
  • Food or plaque around the gums or between the teeth


If you see this appearance, the first step is to focus on cleaning this area:

  • Brushing – a manual or electric toothbrush will do the trick in most locations.
  • Floss – for in between the teeth, you need something thinner such as an interdental brush, a waterpik, or floss.
  • Interdental brushes – if you find floss difficult to use, a small interdental brush might be more suitable. You could try Piksters.



To help the gums heal, you could try a short-term alcohol free mouthwash such as Curasept (chlorhexidine). Or, if you prefer not to use an antibacterial mouthwash, you can rinse with saltwater. Try 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1/2 glass of water.


What if my gums still bleed when I floss?

If you’ve tried the steps above and your gums are still bleeding, there could be something more going on. We strongly recommend that you see your dentist if this is the case (2).


Some other causes of bleeding gums include:

  • Decay in the area
  • Gum or periodontal disease
  • Infection of the bone surrounding the tooth
  • Nutrition deficiency – specifically vitamin C
  • Smoking and some medical conditions
  • Rough or incorrect brushing or flossing technique
  • Pregnancy gingivitis caused by hormonal changes

Gum Disease

Gingivitis and periodontitis are both gum diseases that can cause bleeding. Gingivitis is caused by plaque build up around the teeth and is usually felt as inflammation or soreness. In most cases, it can be remedied with a professional clean and a disciplined at home hygiene routine (3).

Periodontitis, on the hand, causes the bone around the gums to shrink away. The ultimate effects of this condition can be loosening or loss of the teeth. If caught early on, periodontitis may be controlled before too much damage is done (3).

The presence of gum disease, particularly periodontitis, has suggested links with osteoporosis, respiratory disease, aspiration pneumonia and some cancers (4). Therefore, consulting with your dentist is important.


Tooth Trivia

Ever heard the term ‘long in the tooth’? This is a phrase sometimes used to indicate that a person is old. This term comes from the appearance caused by periodontal disease and arose from the trend for older people to have shrinking gums before we knew more about how to manage gum disease. Nowadays, we do everything we can to make sure our patients gain continual dental wisdom but avoid becoming ‘long in the tooth’!

If you would like more information about your oral health, or if you would like to book an appointment at Ethical Dental call 6652 3185.

Read more about oral health on our blog posts; 3 common dental risks for women, 5 Tips for choosing the best dental health insurance and Wisdom Teeth: Eruption and Crowding Myths.



(1) https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/brushing-and-flossing/do-your-gums-bleed-when-flossing

(2) https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/bleeding-gums

(3) https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/gingivitis-periodontal-disease

(4) https://www.ada.org.au/News-Media/News-and-Release/Submissions/Chronic-Disease-Prevention-and-Management-in-Prima/30July15M958395_v1_635739577364674003

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