Why your gums bleed after you brush your teeth

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If you spit pink every time you brush your teeth, you probably have gum disease.

Mild gum disease—or gingivitis—is the chronic buildup of bacteria-laden plaque and tarter on your teeth that only a dentist can remove.

How Gum Disease Gets Worse

The longer plaque stays there, the more inflammation and swelling it’ll cause around your gums. The simple act of brushing your teeth irritates the swollen gums, and makes them bleed.

The problem: Most guys don’t even know they have gingivitis because it normally doesn’t cause pain until it worsens.

And you definitely don’t want it to get that point. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can turn into periodontitis, said Men’s Health advisor Mark S. Wolff, D.D.S. Your teeth may loosen, or in extreme cases, fall out or need to be removed.

It can also affect more than your mouth: Gum disease is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, too, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Related: The Better Man Project—Live Your Best Life Ever With These 2,000+ Health Tips

How to Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy

The only way to get rid of or avoid gingivitis is to practice good oral hygiene. You should brush twice a day and floss every night to discourage plaque buildup.

Sounds like simple advice, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to screw up. Check out 6 Toothbrushing Mistakes You Make Every Morning and discover the absolute best way to brush your teeth.

Make an appointment with your dentist, too. Guys with bleeding gums or signs of cavities—toothache, pain when you eat hot or cold food, or pain when you bite down—should get a cleaning every three months, Wolff said.

A buildup of plaque—the cause of gum disease—also causes cavities.

If you don’t have any symptoms now, but have had cavities in the past, you should make an appointment every six months to a year, Wolff said.

This article originally appeared on MensHealth.com.