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Receding Gums: Much More than an Aesthetic Problem

Are you starting to see more of your teeth along the gum line? Do your teeth appear to be “longer” than they were before?  Are you experiencing sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages? These are all signs of gum recession and it is not a problem you should ignore. Many people think of receding gums as an aesthetic problem; however, when gum recession occurs, “pockets,” or gaps, form between the teeth and gum line, making it easy for disease-causing bacteria to build up. If left untreated, the supporting tissue and bone structures of the teeth can be severely damaged, and may ultimately result in tooth loss.

Gum recession (also called gingival recession) is the process in which the margin of the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away, or pulls back, exposing more of the tooth, or the tooth’s root. Receding gums may be one of the first signs of gum disease. At first, you may not notice that your gums are receding, because the process is gradual. But, if you do notice that your gums are receding, you should make an appointment with your dentist as quickly as possible. There are treatments that can repair the gum and prevent further damage.

Why Do Gums Recede?

There are a number of factors that can cause your gums to recede, including:

  • Periodontal disease: These are bacterial gum infections that destroy gum tissue and the supporting bone that holds your teeth in place.
  • Genes: Some people may be genetically more susceptible to gum disease, regardless of how well they care for their teeth.
  • Aggressive teeth brushing: If you brush your teeth too hard or in the wrong way, it can cause the enamel on your teeth to wear away and your gums to recede.
  • Insufficient dental care: Inadequate brushing and flossing makes it easy for plaque to turn into tartar that can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning, and build up on and in between your teeth, causing gum recession.
  • Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in female hormone levels can make gums more sensitive and more vulnerable to gum recession.
  • Tobacco use: Tobacco users are more likely to have sticky plaque on their teeth that is difficult to remove, which can cause gum recession.
  • Grinding and clenching your teeth: Clenching or grinding your teeth can put too much force on the teeth, causing gums to recede.
  • Crooked teeth or a misaligned biteWhen teeth do not come together evenly, too much force can be placed on the gums and bone, allowing gums to recede.
  • Body piercing of the lip or tongue: Jewelry can rub the gums and irritate them to the point that gum tissue is worn away.

Your dentist can determine which factors are responsible for your receding gums. Certain factors can be lessened, or even eliminated. Once those factors are addressed, your dentist may recommend other treatments to enhance and restore the appearance of your gums, as well as reduce your risk for tooth loss and other dental health problems.

Treatments for Receding Gums

If grinding is an issue, your dentist may prescribe a mouth guard for you to wear at night. Your dentist and dental hygienist can also perform a deep cleaning, using special tools in order to remove the plaque and tartar buildup on the roots where the gums are receding. This is a procedure known as root planing. A periodontist can perform a surgical procedure called gum grafting, where your own healthy gum tissue from the roof of your mouth is grafted to replace the missing gum tissue around your teeth. In severe cases of gum recession, the bone may be destroyed. Recent advances in dentistry allow the periodontist to conduct a surgical procedure where a regenerative material is placed in the area of bone loss to help regenerate the bone and tissue. The gum tissue is then secured in that area where one or more teeth may have been involved.

Your first line of defense is to visit your dentist at least once every 6 months for plaque removal and to then follow your dentist’s home care instructions. Learn more on the importance of dental health and schedule your appointment at The Schiff Dental Group.