If your gums start bleeding when you floss, it’s not flossing that’s the problem. Bleeding, puffy gums are a sign of gingivitis, the beginning stages of gum disease. This means you need to see your general dentist / local periodontist right away for treatment.

"Eighty percent of people in America have some form of gum disease and should see their general dentist every six months," according to Dr. Matthew Darbro, DDS, a general dentist at Glendora Smiles, a Smile Generation-approved dentist in Glendora, California.

Gingivitis is caused when plaque (the sticky buildup on teeth) is not removed from the teeth. What’s worse, this plaque hardens to become tartar. Plaque can be easily removed at home with proper brushing and flossing, but tartar is hard and must be removed by a dentist or hygienist. This plaque and tartar infect the mouth with harmful bacteria which cause all sorts of dental problems , cavities, swollen bleeding gums, bad breath, and if not treated, tooth, gum and bone loss. The bacteria that cause Gingivitis can also create inflammation in the body to cause or exacerbate existing medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, or diabetes.

To avoid and treat gingivitis, follow these three steps:

1. Get regular dental checkups:

The nation’s best dentists advise their patients to have a dental cleaning every six months to ensure a healthy mouth or more often if you’re prone to oral health problems. Certain procedures, such as laser-assisted cleaning, can help to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth to help prevent gum disease.

2. Brush regularly:

The nation’s best dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice daily, three times if possible.

Follow these tooth-brushing tips for proper oral care:

  • Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle along the gum line.
  • Move the brush in short circular strokes along each surface of your teeth.
  • Don’t skip the back teeth and areas around fillings and other dental work.
  • Clean the inner surfaces of front teeth with an “up and down” stroke.
  • Check with your general dentist for the right type of toothbrush for you.

3. Floss regularly:

As you now know, bleeding gums mean you should floss more, not less. The nation’s best dentists recommend flossing at least twice a day to remove sticky plaque and food particles from between the teeth. You have a choice of string floss, interdental flossers, or toothpicks or even water-flossing devices. Ask your general dentist for the best type of floss or interdental cleaner to use.

Follow these simple tips to floss like a pro:

  • Wrap a piece of 18” floss around the middle finger of both hands. Leave a 1-½ to 2-inch space between for flossing.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumb and forefinger and insert it between your teeth.
  • Rub the floss gently up and down the surface of one tooth and under the gum line. Floss with a back-and-forth or zigzag motion.
  • Floss in between and around each tooth, including the back teeth.
  • Use a clean area on the floss string for each tooth. Discard the floss after use.
  • If bleeding and swelling occurs along the gum line, visit your general dentist as soon as possible for treatment.