You look in the mirror and notice that your teeth look a little longer than they once did. Perhaps they even feel more sensitive. When the tissue that usually covers the root of the teeth starts to pull back, it’s known as gum recession.
Gum recession isn’t just a cosmetic issue, although it does affect the appearance of your teeth. When your gums recede, they create openings, or pockets, where bacteria can thrive. Those bacteria can cause considerable damage to your teeth and gums.
The sooner gum recession is caught and treated, the easier it is to treat and reverse. You can treat it and reverse it in later stages, but the process is generally more involved.
What Causes Gum Recession
Receding gums are often associated with gum disease. Although periodontal disease is a major cause of gingival recession, it’s not the only cause. A mix of lifestyle habits and genetics can also influence whether your gums recede or not.
Brushing Too Hard Can Make Gums Recede
You know you’re supposed to brush your teeth at least twice a day to remove food debris, plaque, and bacteria. Some people take this advice to the extreme and really go to town on their teeth and gums. While you do want to brush regularly, you should do so gently. Brushing your teeth too hard or with a hard or medium-bristled toothbrush can actually wear down the gums, causing them to pull away from the teeth.
If you’re not sure if you’re brushing too hard, talk to your dentist. He or she might recommend switching brushes and can show you the correct amount of pressure to use when you brush. You can also invest in an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor. If you’re using too much force, the brush will alert you until you loosen up.
Your Genes and Hormones Can Play a Role
Some people are more likely to have receding gums than others, thanks to their family history and genes. Your genes might make you predisposed to gum disease, which can increase your risk for developing gingival recession. The same is true of your hormones. Changing hormone levels, due to birth control, pregnancy or menopause, can increase your risk for gum disease and might lead to gum recession.
Bruxism and Misalignment Can Make Gums Recede
Just as putting a lot of pressure on your gums with your toothbrush can contribute to receding gums, so can putting a lot of pressure on the teeth and gums by grinding your teeth. Bruxism, or tooth grinding, is a fairly common condition that can have an adverse effect on your oral health. It not only makes gum recession more likely, it can also wear down the teeth and cause enamel erosion.
In some cases, teeth that aren’t well aligned or that are crooked can irritate the gums enough to cause recession. If you are concerned about the alignment of your teeth, braces or another method of straightening the teeth and adjusting the bite might help you.
Dentures are often the least expensive option for replacing a missing tooth or teeth. But they aren’t without their drawbacks, one of which is that, if they don’t fit right, you can be left with receding gums. If the dentures are able to move around in their position, they can irritate the gum tissue, ultimately causing it to pull back from the teeth.
Some other lifestyle choices or habits can also increase your risk for gum problems. Smoking makes your gums more likely to recede, for example. An injury to the mouth, taking birth control pills or having dentures that don’t fit well can also make you more at risk for developing receding gums.
Why Are Receding Gums a Problem?
Looks aside, why are receding gums a problem? The roots of your teeth aren’t meant to be exposed to the open air like the crowns of your teeth. You don’t have a tough coating of enamel on your tooth roots. That means that your roots are more sensitive to temperature changes or to hot and cold foods. They are also more prone to decay without the gums to protect them.
Receding gums can also make existing periodontal disease worse. The gums have pockets that are the perfect places for bacteria to hide. The more bacteria that develops, the more difficult it is to treat gum disease or gingival recession.
Treating Gum Recession in the Early Stages
How your dentist can treat or reverse gum recession depends on its stage. In the earliest stages, the condition is easiest to treat. The first thing to do is to stop the recession from continuing. If you brush too aggressively, your dentist will show you how to brush more gently. He’ll most likely recommend switching to a toothbrush with soft bristles.
Changing your brushing technique won’t reverse the recession, but it will keep it from becoming worse.
If your receding gums are due to periodontal disease, an early treatment will usually involve scaling and root planing. Also known as a deep cleaning, scaling involves removing the bacteria trapped between the gums. Root planing smooths down the surface of the gums, so that bacteria isn’t able to get a good grip.
Treatment of More Advanced Gum Recession
More advanced forms of receding gums often need more intense treatment. One common treatment involves restoring the missing gum tissue. Known as a gum graft, the treatment replaces the missing gum tissue with new tissue. Older methods of gum grafting involved taking the tissue from the top of the mouth and transplanting it to the gum line.
New methods use regenerated donor tissue to restore the gum line. Since there is only a single surgical site required, the procedure is considerably more comfortable for patients.
Another treatment, the pinhole surgical technique, helps reverse gum recession by manipulating the gum tissue over the exposed roots. The process involves making small holes in the gum tissue. The dentist is then able to shift the tissue downwards, so that any exposed roots are once again covered.
The pinhole surgical technique is not as uncomfortable as a gum graft and usually has a shorter recovery period. It can be used on up to 14 teeth during a single treatment session, compared to just one or two teeth during a traditional gum graft.
No matter how far along your gum recession is, treatment is available to help you reverse it and restore your smile. Treating your receding gums won’t just help improve your smile’s appearance, though. It will also help you improve your overall health and well-being.
In Miami, Florida, periodontists Dr. John Paul Gallardo offer patients a variety of treatment options for receding gums. To learn more about reversing your gingival recession and about the treatment that’s right for you, call 305-547-8687 today.