Why do my gums bleed when flossing?

Everybody knows the benefits of flossing and interdental cleaning. The regular practice of these oral care and hygiene habits can help ensure that the gum line and hard-to-reach areas between your teeth are free from plaque.

Keeping your teeth free from plaque is essential to reduce your risk of tooth decay, cavities, gum disease and bad breath.

However, what if your gums bleed when you floss? Does this mean you are flossing incorrectly, or could it be a sign of oral health issues? There are a number of reasons why people experience bleeding when flossing, including:

  • You are just starting to floss regularly
  • You haven’t flossed previously for more than a few days
  • Poor flossing technique
  • Plaque and tartar build-up
  • Gingivitis and gum inflammation
  • Gum disease
  • Gum irritation caused by a poor filling or crown
  • Pregnancy

What should I do if my gums bleed when flossing?

Bleeding when flossing’ is a common experience, if you’ve just started or resumed flossing. Dentists recommend that you continue flossing after each meal for three to ten days. Over this period, any bleeding should actually go away.

If bleeding persists after a week, you may have oral health issues or physically damaged gums. Book a visit to your dentist for a check up to find out if you have an oral health-related problem that requires treatment.

Using mouthwashes with fluorinated hydrogen peroxide can also help reduce gum inflammation, resulting in less bleeding when you floss. Remember to brush your teeth gently with a soft bristled brush, and if you want to avoid flossing altogether, consider using an electric air or water flosser (e.g. Waterpik, Philips Airfloss or Oral-B Water Flosser) for a more powerful yet gentle cleaning solution – and less bleeding.