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Gingivitis Causes: What's Making My Gums Bleed?

Medically reviewed by Grazielle Millo-Paderes, DDM, MSc · Dentistry · Unihealth-Parañaque Hospital and Medical Center

Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated Jun 23, 2021

Gingivitis Causes: What's Making My Gums Bleed?

Gingivitis is a mild gum disease that causes the gums around our teeth to be swollen, irritated, and appear red. Despite being a common gum infection, Gingivitis needs to be treated immediately since it may develop into periodontitis, a much more severe gum disease, leading to eventual tooth loss. What are gingivitis causes? 

Gingivitis Causes

A common cause of gingivitis is the build-up of plaque because of poor oral hygiene. Plaque is a gummy-feeling film of bacteria covering your teeth that cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is made when the bacteria of your mouth come in contact with starch and sugars from consumed food.

Plaque turns into tartar when left uncleaned. The plaque should be removed frequently. When left on teeth, it will harden over time becoming a hard, yellowed deposit known as tartar. Tartar makes it tough to remove plaque build-up from teeth since it protects bacteria.

Gingivitis can be treated by practicing correct oral care. If left untreated, gingivitis causes the gingiva, the gums surrounding the teeth, to loosen up and exposes bone tissue to bacteria and plaque.

Symptoms of Gingivitis

Strong, pinkish gums indicate healthy gums. The following are symptoms of periodontal disease:

Reddish, swollen gums 

Gingivitis causes gums to appear bright red or even a dark purple is a sign of weak gums.

Gums that bleed simply from brushing or flossing 

 Weak gums will tear and bleed out. This will cause soreness when brushed or flossed.

Bad breath 

An unpleasant odor that cannot be removed even after brushing may be a sign of gum disease or an underlying gastrointestinal problem.

Pain or discomfort when chewing, eating, or talking 

Weakened teeth from tartar make it difficult for day-to-day activities like eating or speaking.

Loose teeth 

Untreated gingivitis causes loose teeth because of bacteria contained in plaque and tartar. The built-up bacteria weaken the gums, eventually letting teeth detach and loosen from their sockets.

Risk Factors

The following are factors that progress the damage and risk of gum disease:  

Age. People, mostly adults, have a higher number in gingivitis cases because of dry mouth and continued accumulation of plaque due to low dental care.

Poor oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing done irregularly does not effectively remove plaque, letting bacteria grow in your mouth.

Smoking. Tobacco products affect the strength of the soft tissue in your mouth, disturbing the cell’s functions.

Hormonal changes. Female hormones, especially in pregnant women, cause increased blood flow to gums, making them more sensitive and prone to irritation and swelling.

Taking medication that lessens saliva flow. Saliva is what keeps our mouth hygienic, so taking medication that lessens the saliva in your mouth will contribute to gum disease development.

Genetics. A person who has a family history of gum disease is more likely to develop gingivitis themselves.


During a visit to the dentist, the following diagnoses may occur:

  • Examination of gums for possible inflammation and swelling.
  • Testing for “pocket depth.” This refers to the checking and measurement of any pockets or sockets around your teeth, checking if they are within the correct depth of 1 to 3 millimeters.
  • Identifying factors that risk gum diseases, usually done by probing your medical history.

Prevention and Treatment of Gingivitis

Depending on what your dentist recommends, brushing your teeth daily for two minutes twice a day, accompanied by flossing will greatly reduce the risk of gingivitis. Developing healthy dental habits and care is key to prevent any further bacteria build-up and gingivitis causes and effects.

Moreover, having regular dentist appointments is necessary for mouth cleaning (usually occurs every six to 12 months), evaluating the situation of your gums and possible factors of gum disease development.

Misconceptions and Myths

Despite being such a common gum disease, only around three percent of people with confirmed cases seek out actual medical help. A cause of the lack of treatment in patients may be connected to lack of correct understanding of oral hygiene habits and essential oral health.

The following are incorrect myths and beliefs people hold regarding oral health:

  1.   Gingivitis can only be caused by poor oral hygiene

Many factors can come into play that could increase the risk of gum disease and not just poor dental hygiene alone. These may include tobacco consumption, genetics, and gum health.

  1.   Hard brushing should be applied in painful, bleeding areas

Brushing too hard will wear out the enamel, the outer cover of teeth, and damage gums. Short strokes and scrubbing motions will suffice, applying the right pressure to feel the bristles along your gums.

It is also recommended to use softer toothbrush bristles so as not to damage the tooth enamel
  1.   Bleeding gums is not a big deal.

Reddish, swollen gums prone to bleeding is a clear sign of gum disease. A visit to a dental professional is a must to have your overall gum health evaluated.

Key Takeaways

Gingivitis is fairly common in adults and can be developed by plaque accumulation. It has many risk factors, but it can be easily remedied by adopting proper oral hygiene, as well as having regular trips to the dentist. Understanding proper dental care by correcting misconceptions will also aid in its prevention. 

Learn more about Gum Disease here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Grazielle Millo-Paderes, DDM, MSc

Dentistry · Unihealth-Parañaque Hospital and Medical Center

Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated Jun 23, 2021

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