One of the things I do with a patient during their initial interview is listen to them describe their oral health. From time to time I will have a person say something to the effect of, “My gums always bleed when I brush or floss. That’s just normal for me.”
While bleeding gums might be the norm for that person, it is not considered normal. It’s sort of like someone with fair skin saying, “I always get sunburned. That’s normal for me.” What they are saying is that it’s common or typical for them. But it’s not normal, because each sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer and causes permanent cell damage to the skin. Bleeding of the gums during regular brushing and flossing is an indication of inflammation in the mouth, and that’s almost never a good thing or a sign of normal health.
For some reason, the gums are the only area of skin on our body that some consider acceptable to bleed. Can you imagine if, while clipping your fingernails or pushing back the cuticles, your skin around the nails began to bleed? What would someone do if while plucking their eyebrows blood began to ooze from the brow? We would never waive that off as being normal, yet we dismiss bleeding gums as no big deal.
There are a set of narrow circumstances where people’s skin, and gum tissue, may be expected to bleed more than normal. An example of this could be pregnant women or people who take blood thinners as medication. These conditions are generally known to the patient and tend to be systemic, affecting people’s entire body including the mouth.
For those people whose bodies are seemingly healthy but whose gums still bleed, talk to your dentist to determine the cause of bleeding. If left untreated, bleeding gums is often an early warning signal of more serious problems in the mouth to come.