Receding gums are a common dental concern among adults. They can lead to sensitive teeth and loss of stability for those teeth. They are also relatively difficult to treat. The treatment differs depending on whether the goal is to simply stop the progression or to replace the missing gum tissue.
What Causes Receding Gums?
There are actually many different problems that can lead to gum recession. Some involve aspects that you, as the patient, can control, and others do not. It is important for you to discuss the various possible causes of gum recession with your dentist. Understanding the cause helps you and your dentist choose the best treatment.
Receding gums is one of the consequences of progressive gum disease. Gum disease begins with plaque and tartar building up where the gums meet the teeth. The bacteria inside the plaque and tartar produce toxins that penetrate the gum tissue. Your body responds to these toxins with inflammation. Acute inflammation is good, bringing blood flow and healing cells to the area.
The problem with ongoing gum disease is that when left untreated, it transitions from acute inflammation, which is good, to chronic inflammation, which is bad. Chronic inflammation is destructive in nature. In periodontal disease, the chronic inflammation destroys the tissues surrounding the teeth affected by these bacteria. As the disease destroys underlying bone, the gums shrink with it, leading to recession.
Bad Tooth Positioning
Teeth should maintain a position within the upper and lower jaws that provides for their being completely surrounded by bone and gums. When a tooth is in an improper position, not surrounded by healthy bone, there will not be healthy gum tissue covering it either.
This can occur naturally as the result of severe crowding. When a tooth does not have space to come into the mouth in its correct position, it will often move outward toward the cheek or inward toward the tongue, resulting in a lack of bone and gum coverage on that side.
This can also occur orthodontically when the movement of a tooth places it outside of the natural dental arch. Gum recession may be a negative consequence of trying to achieve a widened smile, showing more teeth.
Heavy Clenching or Grinding at Night
When someone puts heavy forces on the teeth through nighttime clenching and/or grinding, it can lead to receding gums. These heavy forces cause microscopic flexing of the teeth and pressure right at the gumline of the teeth. The movement of the teeth within the bone and gums can lead to a detachment of the gum tissue.
This is especially noteworthy when one tooth receives forces at an inappropriate angle or a higher amount of force that the teeth around it. Often, when we find an isolated tooth with gum recession, an analysis of the bite will show heavy or oddly angled forces on that tooth!
Improper Toothbrushing Technique
While many people believe this is the most common cause of receding gums, the truth is that the way you brush your teeth is less often a contributor to gum recession. The reason for that is that when most people brush incorrectly, they miss the gums completely. It is possible, though, for someone to brush in such a way that it damages the gum tissues and causes recession.
When someone uses a hard- or medium-bristled toothbrush in a harsh scrubbing motion, it can irritate and damage the gums. To prevent this, you should always use a soft-bristled toothbrush and use gentle, circular motions that sweep along the edge of the gums. This will remove dental plaque and preserve the health of your gum tissues.
How to Stop Receding Gums?
In order to stop receding gums, you must stop whatever is causing it. It is also important to understand that sometimes gum recession is multifactorial, meaning there are multiple causes working together. Your dentist will discuss your treatment options for periodontal disease. By working to stop the progression of gum disease, you will also stop the recession from continuing to worsen.
Tooth positioning is a little more difficult to combat. Rather than being a progressive condition like gum disease, the position of a tooth is relatively stable. Since it is a stable condition, there is nothing to stop. You can either maintain it where it is, or opt for one of the following options to replace the missing gum tissue. Unfortunately, moving the tooth into a better position in the dental arch does not automatically regrow the gum tissues.
You can stop the progression of gum recession by altering your toothbrushing technique and wearing a protective nightguard to reduce the forces on the teeth. These are both simple steps you can take at home to stop your receding gums.
How to Replace Gum Tissue Lost to Recession
If your goal is to replace the missing gum tissue, some type of surgical intervention is necessary. Gum surgery falls under the category of periodontal treatment, even if the cause is not periodontal disease. Your treatment to replace lost gum tissue may involve gum grafting, using either your own gum tissue or tissue from a donor. You can opt for more conservative surgeries, like the Pinhole Technique (a patented, less-invasive gum recession surgery).
One of the most important things to understand about treatments to replace missing gum tissue is that you could continue to suffer from receding gums. Treatment that replaces missing gums is different from treatment that stops the recession. Continued recession is likely to happen if you do not identify and address the underlying cause of the recession. For example, if you are brushing with a hard toothbrush in an aggressive motion, you can damage grafted gum tissue and lose it. Gum surgeries can fail if you do not protect them from heavy clenching or grinding forces. And obviously, surgical treatment will be unsuccessful if there is untreated periodontal disease.
If you are considering surgical treatment to correct gum recession, make sure to have an in-depth discussion with your dentist and/or periodontist regarding the cause of the recession and how to address it.
More Questions about Receding Gums?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our dentists. They will assess your situation and discuss the potential causes and treatment options for your gum recession.