What It Is
Often dubbed “long-in-the-tooth” for the appearance it gives, receding gums expose the roots of the teeth as gum tissue wears away or pulls back from the crown. Gingival recession can cause discomfort and pain when the person eats foods or drinks that are too hot or cold, sweet or sour, or even spicy. Gums may also be sore without a visible cause, and teeth can decay more easily because the roots do not have the same protective enamel as the crown. That opens the door for bacteria that can destroy the gums, teeth, and even the bones in your jaw, which could eventually lead to tooth loss.
What Causes It
There are many different causes of gingival recession. The main cause is actually gum disease, or periodontal disease. Bacterial gum infections cause gums to swell, bleed, and recede. They destroy the gum tissue and the supporting bone. Studies have shown that an astonishing 30 percent of the population may be prone to gum disease simply because of their genetic makeup. Still others have genes that give them a thinner gum line or more prominent roots than average, making gum recession much more likely.
Inadequately caring for your teeth by failing to brush and floss regularly causes tarter buildup on and in between teeth that will cause gum recession. Tobacco users have hard to-remove, sticky plaque that causes the same problem. Clenching or grinding the teeth (an unknown sleeping habit for many people) is an attributed cause, due to the fact that it places too much pressure on your teeth. A misaligned bite or crooked teeth may also place unnecessary strain on your teeth.
Another common cause that professionals have encountered is overly vigorous or improper brushing of the teeth. By brushing your teeth too often or with excessive force, you are most likely doing more damage than good. Aggressive brushing, especially with hard-bristled brushes, will traumatize and damage your gum tissue and even break down the teeth’s enamel.
How to Treat It
There are a few different ways that you can fix gum recession or avoid causing further harm. One of the ways that dentists and periodontists have found to repair severe gum loss is by doing a gum graft from another healthy part of the gums or from the roof of the mouth and placing it where the gums are the most worn away, thereby reducing the sensitivity and the further recession of the gums.
More important than correction is prevention. To prevent receding gums, you must develop good habits. Use a soft bristle toothbrush and brush three times a day, but not for more than the recommended two minutes. You should replace your toothbrush every three months or when the bristles are bent or damaged because a worn out toothbrush won’t clean your teeth the way they need to be and can damage your gums.
Be sure to floss regularly and use a mouthwash to help you keep your teeth and gums in better health. Staying away from cigarettes and eating a healthy diet will also strengthen your gums and help prevent gum disease.
If you recognize any of the symptoms detailed above or are worried that you are at risk for gingival recession, talk to your dentist. S/he can give you further advice and suggestions for treatment so that you can maintain your beautiful (and pain-free) smile.