Bleeding Gums Aren't Always Due To Periodontal Disease

While bleeding gums often are a sign of periodontal disease, medical issues other than your dental health could be causing the problem. Bleeding gums aren't pleasant, regardless of the root cause. See your dentist first to rule out possible dental causes. If a dentist at a clinic like Hillcrest Dental Centre determines that an underlying medical condition may be causing your gums to bleed, you need to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Any of the following conditions could be to blame for your bleeding gums, and it's important to know which, because some could have a big impact on your overall health.

Nutrient Deficiency

Although deficiency is rare, gum bleeding is a common symptom of vitamin K deficiency. The body needs vitamin K for the blood to clot. But if you take antibiotics, which kill the bacteria in the intestines that produce vitamin K, you could have a problem, especially if you take the medication over the long term. Certain diseases of the intestinal tract also interfere with vitamin K absorption.

Hormonal Changes

The rise in hormones during puberty, right before your menstrual period, when you take birth control pills, or during pregnancy increases blood flow to the gums, making them more likely to bleed.

Gum problems during pregnancy usually start in the second or third month of pregnancy. The fluctuations in your hormone levels while you're expecting affect how your immune system responds to bacteria. A lowered immune response leaves you more susceptible to infections, including periodontal infections.

Similar to what occurs during puberty, oral contraceptives elevate female hormone levels. The increase in the production of estrogen and progesterone causes gum tissue to become red, swollen, sensitive, and more prone to bleeding when you brush and floss.

If you're going through menopause, your gums may become dry and sore, which can make them bleed. Less estrogen production also leads to decreased saliva flow and dry mouth, conditions that can cause gum bleeding.

Cancer Treatment

Ulcers on the gums and in the mouth are a common side effect of chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Other gum problems include swollen, painful, and bleeding gums. Chemotherapy causes the body to produce fewer blood platelets—cells produced in the bone marrow that start the clotting process. This puts you at risk of bleeding anywhere in the body. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments also can cause dry mouth and mouth sores that bleed.

Bleeding Disorder

Bleeding gums may be a sign of a bleeding disorder known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)—a disorder that can lead to excessive bleeding. Characterized by a low blood platelet count, bleeding gums, bruises on your gums, and frequent nosebleeds often are the first symptoms you get. Your dentist can rule out periodontal disease as the cause and refer you to a hematology specialist if a bleeding disorder is the suspected cause of the problem.


Swollen and bleeding gums can be a warning sign of leukemia—a cancer of the white blood cells. The role of white blood cells within the immune system is to protect the body against infection. When the body makes too many abnormal white blood cells, these cells destroy platelets. Bleeding easily or excessively means there aren't enough platelets circulating in the blood to clot and stop bleeding.