Recession, as in going away, is not something you want to happen to your gums (or the economy!) Learn the facts about receding gums, oral hygiene tips to prevent gum recession from occurring, and the proper dental care to treat it.
Receding Gums Defined
When you see receding gums, this is the result of a gradual process wherein the gums surrounding your teeth have pulled back or worn away, causing the tooth root to become exposed. Although this scary-sounding dental problem is quite common, people often fail to notice it until their family dentist brings it to their attention.
Some early warning signs to look out for include tooth sensitivity, feeling a ridge or notch where your tooth meets your gums, or perhaps seeing that a tooth appears elongated. These symptoms accompany gaps or pockets between your tooth and gum line – a breeding ground environment that allows bacteria to multiply. Left unchecked, this can lead to disease and, ultimately, tooth loss as it eats away at the bone and soft tissues that support the teeth.
Who Is Affected
Certain people tend to develop receding gums more frequently than others. Here are the folks who are most commonly affected:
- Those with periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, wherein bacterial gum infections break down these same tissues and bone, are highly prone to gum recession. Unfortunately, approximately 30% of people are genetically susceptible to gum disease.
- Women tend to be particularly vulnerable due to hormonal fluctuations that increase gum sensitivity and chances of gum recession.
- People who clench and grind their teeth exert excessive force on teeth which triggers gum recession.
- Individuals with misaligned bites and crooked teeth tend to put excess pressure on bone and gums, leading to receding gums.
- People with lip or tongue piercings may experience recession due to the piercings abrading and wearing away gum tissues.
- Tobacco use causes a sticky plaque build-up that leads to gum recession, leaving people who smoke, vape or dip vulnerable.
How to Prevent Receding Gums
Being diligent about your oral hygiene routine at home is crucial for preventing gum recession. Irregular and improper brushing and flossing enable plaque to become hardened tartar. Daily brushing and flossing combined with regular preventive dentistry visits to the dental clinic will help you stay on top of your oral health.
Should a parent, grandparent or other family member battle this issue, inform us of your family history and pay close attention to your oral health. If you start noticing evidence of gum recession, schedule a dental appointment right away so we can address this problem head-on. We will likely need to see you more frequently to ensure your optimal oral health.
Here are some additional actions you can take to prevent receding gums:
- Stop smoking and other tobacco use
- Commit to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Get a dental night guard to counteract the damaging effects of chronic grinding
How to Treat Receding Gums
Once gums have receded, there are various treatment options, with deep cleaning being the first course of action for mild gum recession. Allow a little more time at the dentist office than you would for basic cleanings, as we’ll need to work below the gum line, removing plaque and tartar that have accumulated on your affected teeth and root surfaces, and smoothing the area where the root is exposed. These extra steps will help prevent bacteria from re-adhering to the affected area.
Antibiotics are often prescribed to eliminate any hidden bacteria. For significant bone loss and extra deep pockets, we recommend gum surgery to help restore the damaged areas. This often entails open flap scaling and root planing by your dentist or periodontist who will fold the gum tissue back and remove harmful bacteria. Where bone loss is significant, the application of a tissue-stimulating protein, regenerative graft tissue or membrane will prompt your body to produce new bone and tissue. Once complete, the gum is secured over the root, minimizing or eradicating the pockets entirely.
Should a soft tissue graft be needed, your dentist or periodontist will cut a flap of skin from your palate (the roof of your mouth and take the tissue beneath the flap to be sewn to the healthy tissues around your exposed root. Then the flap is closed. With free gingival grafts, tissue from the roof of the mouth can be used without a flap being cut. In instances where there is adequate gum tissue adjacent to the tooth or teeth involved, a pedicle graft can be performed – a procedure that doesn’t require taking tissue from the palate.
Remember, take care of your teeth and they will take care of you!