If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth you may have gum disease - or gingivitis as it’s termed medically. It’s a common problem (in fact half the adult population of the UK is thought to have some degree of gum disease). The condition is easily prevented through good oral hygiene.


  • Red & swollen gums
  • Bleeding when you brush your teeth


Gum disease is usually caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance made up of bacteria. It is usually removed by brushing the teeth but, if it builds up the bacteria can irritate the gums and cause inflammation (swelling). In severe cases a condition called periodontitis can develop which affects the tissues holding the teeth in place. Left untreated your teeth can become loose and fall out.

How is gum disease treated?

Gum disease is best tackled through good oral hygiene. This means brushing your teeth for 2-3 minutes twice a day preferably with an electric toothbrush, flossing at least three times a week, using a toothpaste that contains fluoride (a natural mineral that protects against tooth decay) and visiting your dentist for regular check-ups.

If there is a large build-up of plaque an antiseptic mouthwash may help. These contain chlorhexidine or hexetidine and are available over-the-counter. Chlorhexidine mouthwash is not suitable during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding.

If you have ulcers and swelling you may have a condition called acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) where the gums have become seriously infected. ANUG should be treated by a dentist. You’ll most likely be prescribed antibiotics such as metronidazole or amoxicillin and possibly a stronger mouthwash.

Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to ease ulcer pain. If you have ANUG you may need to switch to a soft (non-electric) toothbrush.

A dentist may also recommend a scale and polish (with a hygienist) to remove hardened plaque, or root planing (deep cleaning to remove bacteria from the roots of the teeth).