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Why Do My Gums Bleed When I Floss?

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A young woman looking in the mirror and flossing while smiling

Most individuals will agree that flossing is a tedious step in our oral routine. However, flossing is essential for maintaining a clean and healthy smile.

If you’re new to flossing, you may notice light bleeding between your gums. Some light bleeding while first beginning to floss is normal. Bacteria, plaque, and tartar buildup near the gumline can irritate and inflame your gums. Flossing to remove this buildup may make your swollen, irritated gums bleed. The bleeding should stop after a few weeks of consistent brushing and flossing because of improved gum health. If the bleeding continues, it may indicate an underlying health issue like gingivitis

Why Is Flossing Important?

Brushing your teeth is a non-negotiable part of any dental hygiene routine, but it’s not enough to maintain healthy gums and teeth. Flossing is important because it reaches into areas where the bristles of your toothbrush cannot. 

Dental floss can enter tight spaces between teeth and gums, removing leftover food particles and plaque. Not flossing means leftover food and plaque are left behind and can lead to concerns like gum disease, cavities, and bad breath. 

Flossing can prevent oral health concerns and have a positive impact on overall health. Some studies suggest a link between gum disease and other health concerns, like diabetes and heart disease. Maintaining healthy gums with routine brushing and flossing helps reduce the risk of developing these health conditions

How to Properly Floss

In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day, it’s recommended that you floss at least once a day.

In some cases, rough brushing and flossing may cause slight bleeding in the gums. It’s important to be gentle while brushing and flossing to avoid damage and irritation to your gums. 

Following proper flossing techniques can help to avoid bleeding.  

  • Start with a piece of floss about 18 inches long. Use the length of your arm as a guide. 
  • Wrap most of the floss around the middle fingers of both hands. This should give you about 1-2 inches of floss to work with.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and index fingers, and gently guide it down between your teeth using a back-and-forth motion. 
  • When the floss reaches your gumline, curve it into a C-shape against the base of one tooth. Slide the floss into the space between the gum and the tooth. Then, gently rub the side of the tooth in an up-and-down motion. Repeat this motion on the other side of the tooth.
  • Repeat these steps using clean segments of floss between each tooth. Don’t forget the backs of your last molars.

Why Are My Gums Still Bleeding? 

If you’re new to flossing, it’s normal to notice light bleeding between your gums due to plaque buildup that irritates them. After a few weeks of routine brushing and flossing, this sensation should go away.

However, if you’re consistent with flossing for a few weeks and still notice some light bleeding after flossing, this could result from an underlying health problem. If the bleeding persists, it’s best to schedule a visit with your dentist for a thorough cleaning and examination.  


Gingivitis develops when plaque isn’t adequately removed, calcifying into tartar that can only be cleaned by a dentist or hygienist. The body’s response to tartar at the gum line can lead to bleeding, inflammation, and tenderness. Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease. If left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis or tooth loss.

Hormonal Changes 

Fluctuating levels of hormones, like progesterone and estrogen during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, can increase blood flow to the gums, making gums more susceptible to bleeding and inflammation. 

Pregnancy gingivitis is a common example and usually goes away after delivery.

Vitamin Deficiency 

An adequate intake of certain vitamins, particularly vitamin C, is crucial for maintaining collagen production in the gums. A deficiency can cause the gums to be more prone to bleeding. Incorporating a balanced diet or supplements can often help to remedy the problem.

Alternatives to Flossing

Traditional dental floss may be difficult for some individuals to use, such as those with dexterity issues, braces, crowded teeth, or limited hand mobility. It may also irritate individuals with receding gums. Finally, dental floss can be tricky and incompatible with one’s lifestyle. 

Fortunately, several floss alternatives are available that help make flossing easier. 

  • Dental floss picks: One end holds a small piece of dental floss, while the other has a plastic pick to remove buildup and plaque. A floss pick provides greater control and less manual dexterity and is convenient for on-the-go use.
  • Water flosser: Use a pulsating water stream to remove plaque and debris. They are particularly effective for sensitive gums, dental work, or braces.
  • Interdental brushes: These are small, cone-shaped brushes that fit between teeth to scrub away plaque and stimulate the gums. These are great for those with braces or gaps between their teeth. 
A female dentist looking at her patient and smiling while shaking his hand

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Some light bleeding when you first begin to floss is normal; please don’t be discouraged! Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing twice daily and flossing once daily is key for a healthy, clean smile.

If you notice continuous light bleeding despite regular flossing, it may indicate an oral health concern. Schedule a visit with your dentist. Visiting your dentist every 6 months for routine cleanings and exams can help prevent dental health concerns and keep your smile healthy.

Contact our Hill Top Dental Centre team to schedule your next dental exam and cleaning! 

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Written by Hill Top Dental Centre

Our clinic offers dental exams and cleanings for children and adultsemergency care when you need it, orthodontics to help align teeth or adjust a bad bite, crowns to restore the function and appearance of your teeth, and many other services to support your smile.

Book your family’s next dental appointments with Hill Top Dental Centre.

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