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.
For example, a common cause of receding gums is improper tooth brushing techniques. Although regular teeth cleaning is essential for the health of your mouth, brushing your teeth too hard can actually cause the gums to wear away or recede. Using too much force or using a toothbrush with hard or medium bristles can increase your risk for gum recession.
Your genes might also contribute to your receding gums. Some people have a naturally higher risk for gingival recession than others. The gum tissue might be weak or thin to begin with.
In some cases, lifestyle choices or habits 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.