Your mouth is a lot like the Wild West — home to millions of bacteria and other microbes, some of which are good and others definitely are not “the good guys.” But your teeth are well-protected from these hostile bacteria and their acidic waste products: with “enamel” shielding the outer part of your tooth, your gums protect the parts you can’t see.
As effective as they are, though, your gums aren’t invincible: their greatest threat is periodontal (gum) disease. This bacterial infection arises from plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles accumulating on teeth due to inadequate brushing and flossing.
The infected tissues soon become inflamed (red and swollen), and this inflammation is a natural defensive response from the immune system. The longer they’re inflamed, however, the more likely they’ll begin detaching from the teeth. The gums may eventually shrink back or recede from the teeth, often causing them to appear “longer” because more of the tooth is now exposed to view.
This exposed tooth and underlying bone can become even more susceptible to infection and damage. In the end, you could lose your tooth and portions of the supporting bone.
Causes of gum recession
Noteworthy, age is not the culprit behind receding gums in humans. Gum recession is simply such a gradual process that it can take decades before the effects are noticeable.
There are a number of causes for gum recession, some of which you may have little control over. If, for example, your teeth come in off center from their bony housing, the gum tissues may not develop around them properly. You might also have inherited a thinner type of gum tissue from your parents: thinner tissues are more delicate and susceptible to recession.
But there are other causes for which you have more control. Over-aggressive brushing (too hard for too long), ironically, does more harm than good as it can injure your gums and cause them to recede. More likely, though, your recession is a direct result of neglecting proper hygiene for your teeth and gums.
When teeth aren’t properly cleaned through daily brushing and flossing, a thin film of bacteria and food remnant called plaque builds up on tooth surfaces. This can trigger periodontal (gum) disease, which subsequently causes the gum tissues to detach from the teeth and often recede.
Not All Gum Recession Is Avoidable
There are many contributing factors to gum recession, and some unfortunately include genetics. Some people simply have fragile gums or don’t have enough jaw bone covering the front of the roots of their teeth to support gums up to the crowns. The good news is that many of the other contributing factors can be controlled, and even if you’re predisposed to gum recession, there are ways to minimize it.
Bruxism Versus Your Gums
Chronic teeth-grinding, or bruxism, causes a whole host of problems for your oral health, and one of them is increasing your risk for gum recession. All that grinding puts too much pressure on the gums, so they begin to retreat. Bruxism can be a difficult habit to break, especially if you’re doing it in your sleep, but you can minimize the damage to the jaw bones, gums, and teeth by using a mouth guard.
Overbrushing Damages Gum Tissue
It might sound counterintuitive, but you can actually brush your teeth too much. Or, at least, too hard. Brushing teeth isn’t like scrubbing the grime out of tile grout; gums are not built to withstand the abrasive assault of hard-bristled brushes (and neither is the enamel on our teeth). Soft bristles are actually ideal for scrubbing away plaque and massaging the gums without damaging them. The same principle applies to flossing; you should definitely floss once a day, but go easy on those gums.
Tartar Buildup And Gum Disease
When plaque isn’t removed by brushing and flossing, it will eventually harden into tartar, which can only be removed by dental professionals. This means that the longer you go without a routine dental cleaning, the more tartar builds up along your gum lines, which puts you at risk for gum disease. Speaking of which…
In the early stages of gum disease, also called gingivitis, the health of your jaw bones is not yet at risk, which is good for avoiding gum recession. If your gums are tender, swollen, and bleed easily, it’s likely gingivitis. You can combat it with healthy brushing and flossing habits, but it’s also wise to bring the problem to Specialist Periodontist such as Dr.Miski.
If untreated, gingivitis advances to become periodontitis. This is when gums start pulling away from the teeth and the integrity of the jaw bones is compromised. There are many risk factors for gum disease, including smoking, hormonal changes (like during pregnancy), diabetes, and dry mouth as a side effect of medications. At this point, better oral hygiene habits aren’t enough and professional treatment is absolutely necessary with periodontist.
Receding Gums Treatment
If you do need treatment, your periodontist, a gum specialist, will decide on the best course of action. Along with helping you change the habits that caused the gum recession, your periodontist will determine whether you would benefit from a special, deeper cleaning called a scaling and root planing. This is frequently the solution when your gum recession is caused by periodontitis. Depending on the cause of your gum recession, you may have to have surgical treatment. This procedure will be done by your periodontist and is called a gum graft. Your periodontist can tell you more about this procedure and what to expect.
Taking care of your oral health is very important. Your mouth is a great indicator of your general wellness, and an oral infection can affect your whole body.
Treatment depends on the severity of the gum recession. In mild to moderate cases, we may only need to perform the standard gum disease treatment of removing plaque and calculus from all gum and tooth surfaces (including below the gum line) with special instruments. This helps reduce the infection and allow the gums to heal and re-establish attachment with the tooth. In more advanced cases, though, the recession may be so extensive we’ll need to graft donor tissue to the area using one of a variety of surgical techniques.
Although the right treatment plan can help restore your gum health, there’s another approach that’s even better — preventing gum disease in the first place. You can reduce your disease risk by practicing daily brushing and flossing and visiting your dentist regularly or when you see symptoms like gum swelling or bleeding. Taking care of your gums won’t just save your smile — it might also save your teeth. Unfortunately, without taking care of your gum, it can shrink back or “recede” from its normal place. Not only does this look unattractive, the recession can also expose teeth to disease and cause tooth sensitivity to temperature changes or biting pressure.
To reduce your risk of gum disease, you should gently but thoroughly brush and floss daily, and visit us for cleanings and checkups at least twice a year. If you have a poor bite (malocclusion), consider orthodontic treatment: malocclusions make it easier for plaque to accumulate and harder to remove.
Above all, if you begin to see signs of gum problems — swelling, bleeding or pain — see us promptly for an examination and treatment. Dealing with these issues early is the best way to ensure your gums continue to do their jobs for the long-term.