Gum recession is a problem that affects millions of Americans. It can be a problem that occurs without someone’s even noticing it, unless he or she makes a habit of inspecting the inside of your mouth. Many people have receding gums that do not show during smiling, talking, laughing, etc….
Receding gums are not normal, and they should not be ignored.
What Causes Receding Gums?
Gum recession has several possible causes, and in some patients, there are multiple causes working together to cause the gums to recede. Understanding which cause is affecting your gums is an essential part of knowing how to prevent or treat them. Seeing your dentist and dental hygienists for consistent visits with professional teeth cleanings and evaluations will help them catch any problems with receding gums in their earliest stages.
- Gum Disease
Gum disease is a bacterial infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. The toxins produced by these bacteria destroy the attachment between the teeth and the bone and gum around them. We call this a “loss of attachment”. As the disease worsens, the gums pull away from the teeth and recede.
Gum disease is the most common cause of receding gums. If your gums are noticeably receding, and you have not seen a dentist in a long time, you should make an appointment for a dental visit as soon as possible. Do not wait until the teeth become loose!
- Teeth Clenching and/or Grinding
Forces that are harder or heavier than normal chewing are damaging to both the teeth and the surrounding bone and gum tissues. When people clench their teeth together or grind them side-to-side, it causes microscopic movements in the teeth. Over time, the gums begin to pull away from the movement and heavy forces and recede. This becomes really obvious when a single tooth receives more force than the teeth around it and is the only one to show receding gums.
- Improper Tooth Position
In order for teeth to be completely surrounded by jawbone and gum tissues, the teeth have to be in a position that is relatively centered in the bone. If a tooth leans too far in one direction, it will not have enough bone or gums covering it. This tooth will be at high risk for gum recession.
Bad tooth positioning can be the natural result of a small arch, which causes the teeth to crowd together. When the teeth are crooked, pushing one or more teeth out toward the lips and cheeks, those teeth are very likely to suffer gum recession.
This can also occur as the result of orthodontics, which moves the teeth into an improper position. Often, patients want a wide smile, showing more teeth, and when the orthodontist moves the teeth into that wider position, they lose their surrounding bone and gum support.
- Bad Brushing Technique
While many people consider this to be a serious cause of receding gums, it’s actually the least common of these four that we list. You can damage the gum tissue with hard-bristled toothbrushes and vigorous back-and-forth brushing techniques. Because these heavy forces will also abrade (remove) hard tooth structure, this cause of gum recession will always leave damage on the teeth as well.
Is Gum Recession Dangerous?
When gums recede, they not only indicate a loss of the support and attachment to that tooth. They also expose the underlying root, which they are supposed to be protecting. Because roots do not have a covering of enamel, exposed roots lead to sensitive teeth and have a high risk for cavities.
The loss of attachment also causes a lack of stability for normal chewing function. This makes it harder for you to enjoy your favorite foods.
How Can I Prevent Receding Gums?
Three of the four causes we listed above are preventable. (You cannot control the natural positioning of your teeth…) In order to prevent gum recession, you address these underlying causes.
- Prevent Gum Disease
Preventing gum disease must include two important routines: 1) great oral hygiene at home, and 2) consistent visits with your dentist. Gum disease always begins with the buildup of dental plaque. We prevent gum disease by removing plaque. At home, this takes place during your brushing and flossing. If you’re not doing this consistently, you are leaving dental plaque on the teeth and putting yourself at risk for gum disease.
At the dentist, professional teeth cleanings and thorough oral evaluations are necessary on a consistent basis. During these visits, the dental hygienist removes all bacterial accumulation from the teeth and gums, giving you a “clean slate”. The dentist will also catch any early warning signs of gum disease and prescribe intervention to stop it from developing.
- Protect Against Clenching and/or Grinding
In order to stop the forces of clenching or grinding, you should wear a professional nightguard to separate the teeth while you sleep, or any other time the habit occurs. (Some people clench during a long commute, doing chores, working out, etc…)
When you wear a professional nightguard, you not only prevent damage to the teeth themselves. It actually lowers the amount and redistributes the heavy forces. This leads to great long-term health of the teeth and all the tissues around them.
- Use the Right Toothbrushing Technique
There are two important factors in preventing gum recession from toothbrushing. First, you must always use a soft-bristled toothbrush. No one ever needs medium or hard bristles. No one. Ever.
Next, you should use a gentle, circular motion instead of a forceful side-to-side scrubbing. Dental plaque is soft, and it is very simple to remove. There is no need for vigorous brushing. If you struggle with this gentle motion, you might want to consider an electric toothbrush, which can perform the correct brushing motion for you. Then your job is only to ensure that the bristles touch all exposed surfaces of the teeth.
My Gums Have Already Receded. What Can I Do?
Once gums recede, there is no simple way to “grow them back”. The first goal in any treatment is to stop the recession from continuing. Once it stops, you and your dentist will work together to decide if you want to maintain the gum positions where they are or move forward with treatment to replace the missing gum tissue. Some specialty gum procedures can move or replace the gum tissue to cover the areas of recession. Most will involve gum surgery.
More Questions about Receding Gums?
Schedule an appointment with your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced dentists. We can help you understand the causes of your gum recession and make recommendations to stop it in its tracks.