Receding gums are a relatively common problem, despite the fact that it can often be prevented through routine oral health practice. It describes the process by which gums shrink and expose the normally hidden and protected portion of your tooth. Though it is a condition that is all too common, this does not mean it should be seen as a normal occurrence.
If receding gums are allowed to worsen and are not treated in time, this can lead to additional dental problems. If the condition should become serious, then there is the possibility that your teeth will become loose and even fall out. In such cases, expensive dental treatment is often the only answer to amend your smile. Thankfully, if the condition is identified early enough, it is a simple and uncomplicated matter to have the gums repaired.
What are receding gums?
Gums are soft tissue, also known as gingiva, which overlay the bone tissue in your jaw. This soft tissue acts as a protective layer for the jawbone, and also the lower and more sensitive areas of the teeth. Receding gums can be an issue relating to the gum tissue itself or the bone tissue underneath. This is an issue that can often go largely unnoticed. This is because the deterioration occurs gradually over time, making the recession difficult to notice. However, by attending regular dental check-ups, you can have your gum and bone tissue assessed on a regular basis, in order to assess whether there is an underlying problem.
Age is not as much of a factor in the problem of receding gums as you may think. It does not matter what age you are, as gum disease is mainly a result of poor oral hygiene standards. By attending to the issue straightaway when diagnosed, you will have your healthy gums returned to you in no time.
Signs of receding gums
Another reason why receding gums often goes largely unnoticed is that people simply do not know what signs to look out for. Being aware of the signs and symptoms can have a profound effect on your oral health, and will prevent what is a condition capable of causing permanent damage to teeth and gums from occurring.
The main symptoms of receding gums:
- Gums changing colour – the shrinkage of gum tissue may expose a line where the enamel stops and the root begins. This may even be felt as a crease at the bottom of your teeth.
- Longer teeth – because your gums are receding, it will reveal more of your teeth and make them look longer.
- Sensitive teeth – the exposed lower half of the teeth will be highly sensitive to cold, heat and salty foods.
- Gappy smile – the receding gums will leave gaps between teeth that were not apparent before. It will actually look as if the teeth are moving, but this is not the case.
What are the causes of receding gums?
The causes of receding gums are extensive, but for the most part they abide by the following guidelines:
Brushing your teeth too energetically
You may not have expected to find brushing your teeth on the list, but for many this is a cause they do not recognise until the damage has been done. If you brush your teeth and gums a little too energetically, then this can wear away the tissue along the gum line, thus revealing the lower part of the teeth which would normally be protected. If you simply change the manner with which you clean your teeth with a toothbrush, your gums will be able to return to normal. Your dental hygienist will be happy to give you some tips and advice on how to clean your teeth properly and safely.
Using circular motions rather than vertical strokes maximises the surface of your teeth and gums cleaned, and produces less force.
Poor oral hygiene
This is one of the causes you would have expected to find on the list. If you do not brush your teeth, this will allow the bacteria on your gums and teeth to develop. As the enzymes found in bacteria start to attack the jawbone, the pockets revealed will become cesspits for even more bacteria to gather. This will in turn lead to further gum recession.
The result of oral disease
Gum disease is a condition that can have devastating consequences on the health and appearance of your teeth and gums. There are two main oral diseases that you need to be concerned with:
- Gingivitis – a mild form of gum disease that can nevertheless result in infection and swelling, which deteriorates the soft tissue to the extent of gum recession.
- Periodontitis – this is a more problematic and harsh form of gum disease, which will severely affect the gums and bone.
The following causes of gum recession should not be forgotten:
- Strain from clenching or grinding your teeth.
- Smoking, due to the toxic chemicals it contains.
- The roughness of piercings on the tongue or lips.
- Eating conditions, such as bulimia, due to the acidity found in vomit.
- Improper bite, often the consequence of below par dental work.
Can receding gums be treated?
For the most part, the best way to treat receding gums is to identify the cause and then prevent it from happening. If the gum recession is not too far gone, then natural recovery from eradicating the cause should suffice. A means to stopping the problem may include improving brushing technique, using anti-bacterial mouthwash, bite realignment, the removal of piercings or amending previous faulty dental work. If sensitive teeth are a result of gum recession, then specially formulated toothpaste could be of assistance.
If gum recession is of a more serious nature, then dental treatment such as a gum graft may be prescribed. This would involve the grafting of tissue from nearby teeth or the roof of the mouth, and this then being applied to the damaged area. Artificial grafts are also an option that can be discussed.
How to prevent receding gums
One of the easiest ways to prevent the onset of receding gums is to maintain a good level of oral hygiene. In addition to this, regular visits to your dentist should be top priority. This is so any underlying signs or symptoms of gum recession can be identified early. For those who grind their teeth, many dentists can now provide solutions to this problem and prevent the adverse effect of gum recession, which are convenient and none too costly. If you smoke, then the best solution is to stop. There are help groups and public initiatives available should you require assistance. Also, monitoring the level of sugary food and drink you consume can make a big difference.
If your gums are receding, making an appointment with your dentist sooner rather than later will lead to a decent chance of your dental issues being properly and quickly resolved.