How To Treat Receding Gums And More Information About Gum Health

receding gums

Understanding dental hygiene is essential for performing preventative measures, many of which help us avoid severe issues later in life. One of these concerning potential issues is receding gums. This article will supply you with several ways to prevent, treat, and care for receding gums. Receding gums are an issue that can be easily overlooked, as it occurs over time and because of this can be hard to identify. However, do not fret! Receding gums are not an inevitability. 

Daily brushing and flossing have always been recommended by our dentists, but is there more to our daily dental hygiene routines we may have missed? If you are curious about what may cause your receding gums or would like to learn effective methods of prevention, we have helpful information below. With thorough and routine care it is possible to prevent receding gums, ultimately helping you maintain a beautiful smile and a healthy mouth.

What Are Receding Gums?

Every time we visit the dentist, the hygienist and the dentist are looking for clear signs of any dental hygiene issues we may have. Receding gums are easy for them to identify. Receding gums are one form of periodontal disease, or gum disease. This occurs as friction or plaque buildup pushes or pulls your gums back from the tooth which can eventually expose its roots. Gum recession can create severe sensitivity and potential tooth loss. Receding gums are typically the result of poor dental hygiene and oral care. 

Gum recession is just one specific periodontal disease. As with most diseases, the earlier that a dentist can identify your receding gums, the better the methods of prevention, treatment, and care. Thankfully, dentistry has allowed for great advancements in the treatment of gum diseases, it has become far less complicated than what it was – especially for older adults.

Signs Of Receding Gums

One of the primary concerns as gums recede is the cyclical and increased susceptibility to bacteria growth. It is possible to notice tenderness in the gums, or a gradually shifting bite and jaw alignment. Both are potential signs that your gums are fading. Recessing gums will come with a variety of other compounding signs such as:

  • Excessive bad breath
  • Longer teeth
  • Color change between crown and tooth root
  • Inflamed gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Sour taste in the mouth

What Causes Them?

teeth with receding gums

Periodontal diseases are bacterial gum infections which target gum tissue and the essential jaw bone which holds teeth in place. Periodontal diseases are the main cause of receding gums, which evolve from untreated gingivitis and plaque build up. Your gums are trying to move away from the bacteria as their “fight or flight” response to avoid infection. The California Dental Association (CDA) estimates that seventy-five percent of adults have a periodontal disease. It is a cyclical oral disease which can begin with slight buildup of bacteria from plaque that gets trapped within the gums and between teeth.

Dentist Visits Matter!

dentist doing dental cleaning to patient

Without a visit to the dentist or with poor dental hygiene practices, this trapped plaque can damage the gums, which causes the gums to recede from covering the teeth. Over time, this creates a more hospitable environment for more plaque to form. As bacteria gathers between teeth and along the gum line, a hard plaque substance called tartar will develop. 

Tartar can only be removed during a dentist visit where they perform a professional cleaning with the proper tools. If the mouth is healthy, the gums are a light pink color with no inflammation or inconsistency in the gum line. As gum recession takes place, the gums will look more inflamed since they are trapping more bacteria. An uneven gum line will also appear around some teeth versus others. This is because the gum tissue is wearing away. As time passes in this unhealthy cycle, more tooth will become exposed.

Oral Hygiene And Habits

toothpaste and toothbrush

It is important to note that certain medications with the side effect of dry mouth can also increase the risk of receding gums. Saliva is necessary to maintain a clean mouth as saliva helps to heal tissue in your mouth. A dehydrated mouth becomes much more vulnerable to infections, cuts, and bacteria growth.

Receding gums are typically observed in adults 40 and older, and the condition is often overlooked and categorized as an aspect of aging. However, aging is not the typical cause. Gum recession results from many factors, many of which are habit related. A variety of personal habits and hygiene practices such as these may be the root cause of receding gums:

  • Hard brushing over time
  • Using a hard bristle toothbrush rather than soft bristle
  • Smoking / chewing tobacco
  • Lack of flossing
  • Grinding / clenching your teeth
  • Lip or tongue piercings
  • Mouth trauma or repeated impact from sports/athletics
  • Improperly fitted dentures

Since brushing your teeth too aggressively can increase the chances of gum recession, it is important to choose a toothbrush that does not require force or muscle to clean your teeth adequately. Brushing gently and twice a day, for two minutes each session is a great habit to ensure the longevity of your gums and overall oral health.

Family History And Genetics

baby brushing his teeth

Studies have shown that about thirty percent of the population is genetically predisposed to having some periodontal disease, such as gum recession, gingivitis, or other. Often, when this is the case, gum disease is inevitable at some level regardless of oral hygiene routine. There are other genetic or uncontrollable somatic responses that influence receding gums, such as:

  • Women’s hormonal changes throughout life
  • Crooked teeth or an improper bite
  • Lineage history of gum disease
  • Diabetics
  • People with HIV/AIDS or any autoimmune issues that increase the risk of infection

If you know of family history related to gum disease, it is even more important that you visit the dentist routinely and practice healthy oral hygiene habits twice daily. Having a tooth care kit with all of your essential tools would also be great for ensuring that you do not go too long without a fresh and clean mouth.

Treatment

performing treatment

Gum recession treatment options vary depending on the progress of your gum disease or gum recession. It is important to identify any gum related issues early on so any contributing factors or habits may get adjusted, implemented, or eliminated when necessary. Understanding the sources of receding gums will help you prevent further damage or progression of gum disease. Awareness of the issue will help significantly. Once the source issues are known or suspected, it is then possible to discuss treatment options with your dentist. A crooked bite or an offset smile may need braces, for example. One of the main causes of gum disease, tobacco use, could be reduced or eliminated entirely. It would be necessary in this case to increase positive oral hygiene habits and adjust to a healthier lifestyle.

Visit With Your Dentist

patient undergoing oral care

If the gum recession you are experiencing is mild or just beginning, it is possible that your dentist will be able to help in prevention through a deep clean along with your regularly scheduled teeth cleaning. The dentist will perform a process called root planing or tooth scaling, which targets stubborn plaque and tartar buildup along the gum line. The plaque that is removed will expose the root area which will allow the dentist to smooth the area. 

This process makes buildup take longer and the gums will be more resistant to bacteria. Your dentist may prescribe other aids such as mouthwash or antibacterial gel to further kill and reduce bacteria buildup. If an infection is present already, the dentist may offer antibiotics to fight it. It is possible however that the gum recession may be too intense, in which case oral surgery may be necessary.

Flap Surgery

kid having flap surgery

Flap surgery is performed when an infection and its deep pockets remain after a professional cleaning and antibiotic prescription. Your dentist may recommend that you visit with a periodontist depending on the severity of your case. This surgical procedure will remove tartar and plaque from deep within the pockets and minimize the pocket depth, which will make your routine dentist visit much easier and improve overall cleanliness of your teeth and gums.

Soft Tissue Graft

When gum disease has taken over, the receding gums will begin to show the roots of the teeth which will require a procedure known as a soft tissue graft. This oral surgery will include a small incision at the roof of the mouth which is used to give life back to the gums or the surrounding bone structure. The periodontist will position new tissue or bone to encourage the gums to grow back more easily. This procedure is only successful in the long term when healthy dental hygiene habits are closely followed.

Bone Or Tissue Regeneration

It is possible that your receding gums are far advanced and have affected the bone structure that supports your teeth or oral implants. A procedure known as regeneration will take place under certain circumstances where other treatment methods may fall short. The periodontist will access built up bacteria by folding gum tissue back and giving a deep clean to the area. Next, the periodontist will source a regenerative aid such as a stimulating protein, graft tissue, or a specific membrane from elsewhere in the mouth to apply to the affected area. This is to induce bone or tissue growth. Finally, gum tissue is tucked into its original positioning to cover the root entirely.

Conclusion

healthy gums
Although receding gums may seem like an inevitable part of life, it is easy to see the early signs of gum disease or recession. The most important way to be proactive is by practicing healthy, routine oral hygiene and visiting your dentist twice a year to remove any tartar or stubborn plaque. Your dentist is your best resource concerning proper treatment and oral care regimens that can help minimize the amount of gingivitis, gum recession or periodontal disease you may experience later on in life.