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Molly Maloof, MD

Director of Clinical Content

Is it common to experience bleeding gums when flossing?

I feel like I'm doing more harm than good because my gums will bleed when I floss but not when I just brush.

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Featured Answer

101 UpVoted this answer
Great question! That often is never asked! Yes it is common and only says that your body's immune system is working! Trying to stave off the irritation caused by either food particles breaking down or bacteria and sometimes foreign impaled particles.... It seems contrary to say floss if it bleeds but I will assure you unless there is a systemic problem or actual physical damage to the tissue if you keep flossing bare with it in the next 3-10 days you will stop bleeding and your tissue (gums) will thank you for it! Flossing gets where brushes can't. May I recommend, if you don't like to floss, using a WaterPik will do a great job; in fact new studies show it is as effective as flossing! For patients who don't floss well it is a great product! You can pick one up at most drug stores and Target, etc.... Okay, hope this helps. Thank you for taking the time to ask this question! Be well and remember only brush and floss (or WaterPik) the teeth you want to keep!
Steven Brattesani
39 UpVoted this answer
The main question is: How often do you floss? If you only floss once and a while, the tissue (gums) in between the teeth is going to be upset b/c the it is not used to being cleansed. The more you floss, the more resilient the tissue will become, and stop bleeding. Flossing is like stretching, do not expect to become super flexible if you only stretch once per wk.

Hope this helps!
32 UpVoted this answer
Make sure you are using good technique for both, with floss remember is not a toothpick even though it can dislodge food particles above that little triangle of gum between teeth. The point of flossing is to remove that slimy, goopy film that grows between the tooth and the gum and for that you have to go to the base of the triangle, as far down as you can go, without cutting your gum. When you are working the floss between the contacts (are supposed to be tight) move the floss in a cheek to tongue direction don't snap down (cut the gum). Gently work down all the way, push against the tooth so the piece of floss takes the shape of a half circle and scrape straight up. You do that to each tooth separately, twice per contact point. Brushing is also simple but can also be done inefficiently, soft bristles only, index finger and thumb at the same level, don't put your thumb behind the bristles and scrub. Next, the most common reason someone with bleeding gums when they floss (not cutting) but does not when they brush is because they are not touching their gums with the toothbrush. Plaque accumulates and grows at the gum line and gives the patient cavities right along it. So your target is the crevice between the tooth and the gum, you always feel the bristles half on gum, all the way around tongue side and cheek side and behind the last tooth on the row. When you see people brushing properly the gum tissue will heal and shrink and you can see where the gum line use to be because its etched in white (sometimes with brown spots where cavities have started). Once you start doing it correctly your gums will feel a bit sore, like you are brushing a scrape. The bleeding should completely subside in a week or two and in four to six you will grow another layer of keratin (palms of your hands) and then you will brush without any discomfort (gently). Never forget bleeding is a sign of disease. This sounds complicated at first but its just like tying your shoes ,at some point it was a challenge, now you don't think about it.
26 UpVoted this answer
Bleeding gums indicates that there is an issue in that area. It could mean that there is a bad restoration such as a filling or crown that is causing bacteria build up or tissue irritation. Most patients will stay away from an area that bleeds, but it should be a sign that that particular area should be checked and cleaned better, not less!
24 UpVoted this answer
Bleeding gums is a sign of gum irritation . While it may seem like the floss is doing more harm than good, this bleeding will start to go away with enough flossing .
24 UpVoted this answer
Bleeding gums is symptomatic of a periodontal gum condition called gingivitis. Flossing the in between area of the teeth removes bacterial plaque which causes the tissue irritation and the bleeding. Keep flossing and the bleeding should stop over a period of a week or so. If it does not there may be a hard deposit called calculus or commonly called tartar present that simple flossing cannot remove. An appointment with your hygienist will enable her to remove those tartar deposits, and allow the tissue to return to health. Consistent use of floss following cleanings will keep the gums healthy and they will not bleed. Hope this answers your question
20 UpVoted this answer
Yes, it is common. But the bleeding is due to gingivitis (gum inflammation). Inflamed gums are not healthy gums. Although more than 80% of population suffers from gingivitis, it is not noticeable to most people. Make sure to see your dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings. If you have just started to floss, the bleeding will stop within the first two weeks.
13 UpVoted this answer
It is common for your gums to bleed if you are not current on your cleanings or if you just very recently had them cleaned and had alot of build-up. You just need to keep flossing and keep up with good home care and the bleeding should stop. If it doesn't then you should make an appointment with your dentist for thorough check up.
Robert J. Timothy
9 UpVoted this answer
If you have been flossing for a week and your gums are still bleeding see your dentist to evaluate your flossing technique and the need for gum treatment.
Albert Klitzke
8 UpVoted this answer
Bleeding upon flossing is an indication for presence of Gingivitis. This is due to lack of proper oral hygiene. By improving brushing, correct flossing every night (flossing before brushing), and getting regular dental cleanings you can decrease/eliminate gum bleeding.