Receding Gums: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
Most dentists spend a lot of time talking about tooth health and ways to prevent cavities. But gum health is just as important; after all, your gums play a key role in the health and safety of your teeth.
Unfortunately, many people don’t pay enough attention to their gums, leading to gum recession. Gum recession can be caused by a variety of factors or dental hygiene habits.
Let’s take a closer look at gum recession and investigate ways in which to treat or prevent this issue from cropping up in the first place.
What Causes Your Gums to Recede?
Your gums might recede due to several potential causes or underlying conditions.
Gum diseases are one of the most common origins of gum recession. These diseases are usually caused by high amounts of bacteria which eventually destroy gum tissue. Given enough time, gum diseases can chew through the bones that support your teeth and keep them fixed to your jaw, leading to weak or rotting teeth.
In the worst cases, gum disease can lead to overall infection as the bacteria from your gums reaches your bloodstream.
Just as over-brushing can negatively affect your tooth health, it can also affect your gums. You should brush your teeth twice per day for two minutes per session, but no more unless told to by your dentist.
If you brush your gums too frequently, you can eventually cause them to sustain damage and recede. Additionally, your teeth’s enamel will be worn down over time, opening up your teeth to a greater likelihood of cavities or tooth decay.
Not Brushing Enough
The reverse is also true; if you don’t brush your teeth and gums frequently enough, you could expose your gums to gum disease and swelling. While this will temporarily cause your gums to inflame, it will eventually cause them to recede as well, exposing the roots of your teeth and leading to other dental problems.
Women in particular may experience hormonal changes that can lead to gum recession. Women’s hormones fluctuate more dramatically than men’s, such as during pregnancy or menopause. This can make gums more sensitive and potentially recede, although this is not a guaranteed effect for all women.
Your genetics can play a role in whether you are at risk for gum recession. Some people simply have lower than average gumlines in general, and some folks are more susceptible to gum disease regardless of how well the gums and teeth are cared for.
Using Tobacco Products
Tobacco products are better overall for your health, but they are also bad for your gums. Tobacco can cause sticky plaque to form on your teeth and gums, leading to gum disease and recession.
Lip or Tongue Piercings
Be cautious when considering getting a lip or tongue piercing. Either of these alterations introduces jewelry into the mouth, which may cause them to rub the gums and irritate them. Given enough time, the jewelry can wear away gum tissue, leading to permanent recession and further dental health problems.
Grinding Your Teeth
Those who habitually grind or clench their teeth are at an increased risk for gum disease. When you grind or clench your teeth, you put extra pressure on the teeth and may cause the gums to recede as a side effect.
Some people also have naturally crooked teeth or a so-called “misaligned bite”. If your teeth don’t come together evenly or as intended, each bite could cause too much force to be applied on the gums and bones of your teeth rather than the teeth themselves.
Over time, this can also cause gums to recede.
How Can I Treat Receding Gums?
Since most receding gums are caused because of bacterial infections, deep cleaning of the gums and the spaces between the teeth is sometimes necessary to treat this issue.
Your dentist may be able to tackle this during a routine cleaning session, such as during one of your biannual cleaning appointments. Deep cleaning is typically uncomfortable, however, so it’s advised to practice good dental hygiene to avoid needing a deep clean in the first place.
If a bacterial infection has progressed further, your dentist or doctor may also prescribe antibiotics. The antibiotics will be absorbed by your bloodstream and gradually work to diminish a gum-based bacterial infection.
Some of the worst cases of receding gums may require surgery. Surgical procedures involve directly removing bacterial pockets or infections from the affected gum tissue and sometimes replacing gum tissues with other tissues in the mouth.
Which Surgical Procedures Treat Gum Recession?
In addition to the above techniques, surgical procedures can be used to treat long-term or progressive gum recession. These techniques will be performed by a dentist or another licensed medical practitioner (such as a periodontist or gum specialist).
In some of the worst-case scenarios, the bones that support your teeth may become destroyed due to long-term gum recession. In these cases, your dentist may recommend a procedure to regenerate any lost bone tissue.
In this surgery, your dentist folds back gum tissue, removes bacteria, and uses a graft or other regenerative materials to help the body naturally regenerate bone matter in the affected area.
Gum Tissue Graft
Also called a soft tissue graft, gum tissue graft procedures are recommended for those who have experienced intense gum disease.
In the most common of these, called the connective tissue graft, a small amount of skin is cut from the roof of your mouth or palate, which is then stitched to the gum tissue that surrounds any exposed tooth roots. This effectively replaces damaged tissue with healthy tissue in the hope that both affected areas will recover.
Open Flap Scaling and Root Planing
Your dentist may instead recommend a surgical procedure called open flap scaling and root planing. With this procedure, your periodontist will fold back infected gum tissue and remove any harmful bacteria. They will then secure the gum tissue back over your tooth roots. It’s sort of like a cavity filling or root canal but for your gums instead of your teeth.
Can Gum Recession Be Prevented?
Yes. It’s always advisable to do your best to prevent gum recession in the first place rather than have to deal with surgery or other treatments.
If you smoke, consider quitting as soon as possible. Smoking is bad for your health in general, but it does a number on your gum and tooth health. If you quit smoking, you’ll enjoy better dental hygiene and better breath.
You should also consider adjusting your diet to be more balanced and nutritious. If you eat a lot of sugary or acidic foods, your gums could become irritated and eventually recede, exposing the roots of your teeth to decay.
Monitor Your Mouth Health
Be sure to pay close attention to the ongoing health of your mouth. Dental hygiene is a never-ending effort, and you should watch your gums for any signs of recession or overall poor health so you can get a jump on any conditions at the first sign of trouble.
Take Care of Your Teeth
Practice excellent dental hygiene as well. Direct tooth care usually results in you taking good care of your gums as well, which will lower the likelihood of gum disease and recession.
Can You Replace Receding Gums?
Technically, no. If your gums have receded to the point where some tissue has been lost, they cannot be replaced naturally. Therefore, it has to be replaced by a synthetic alternative or a graft of tissue from elsewhere in your mouth.
Like enamel, however, it’s not too late if your gums have just started to recede. Proper oral hygiene (and using high-quality toothpaste and mouthwash) combined with some of the strategies above can help your gums recover before any permanent damage is done.
Receding gums are painful and oftentimes debilitating. This condition not only leads to gum pain and health problems, but also typically leads to further dental issues like cavities or rotten teeth. Therefore, it’s important to avoid gum recession if at all possible and to treat any receding gums as soon as you see them.
Fortunately, you can practice excellent oral hygiene and minimize your risk of gum disease with Supersmile’s collection of advanced oral tools and effective hygiene products. For example, our Professional Whitening Floss is perfect for getting plaque between teeth. Or try our Zina45 Sonic Pulse Brush, which is ideal for maintaining top-tier dental health.