With all the focus on keeping teeth healthy and clean, it's easy to forget about making sure gums get some loving attention too. One common problem that often goes unnoticed until it's too late is receding gums. The gums gradually pull away from the teeth and shrink, exposing teeth roots to bacteria and leading to other problems such as tooth sensitivity. Here's more information about this condition, and a few things you can do to fix the issue.
Cause of Receding Gums
Receding gums can be caused by disease, genetics, mechanical irritants, or a combination of all three. A frequent cause of receding gums is aggressive and/or incorrect brushing. The person brushes his or her teeth too hard, is using a toothbrush with hard bristles, or uses the wrong motions (teeth should be brushed using vertical or circular motions). This irritation causes the gums to gradually pull away, as well as wears away the enamel on teeth.
Another common cause of receding gums is periodontal disease, which affects over 64 million American adults. This is an oral infection caused by the presence of plaque and tartar (byproducts of bacteria in the mouth) on the teeth. Left untreated, the plaque and tarter irritates gums and causes them to become inflamed, bleed, and eventually recede.
Other causes of receding gums include:
- Inadequate dental care (not brushing or flossing thoroughly or regularly)
- Hormonal changes
- Irritation from oral piercings
- Misaligned teeth or over/under bites
- Smoking and chewing tobacco products
Treating Receding Gums
Typically the first step in halting and healing receding gums is to treat the underlying condition that's causing the problem, if possible. For instance, the dentist will generally work on eliminating periodontal disease before performing any treatments to help gum tissues regenerate. This may involve doing a deep cleaning of the teeth to get rid of plaque and tartar and the administration of antibiotics to eradicate the infection.
When it comes to treating the actual gum recession, there are three options available. The first is a procedure called pocket depth reduction. When gums recede, pockets often form in the tissue. Bacteria hides in these pockets and cause continuous damage while there. A pocket depth reduction consists of the dentist removing harmful bacteria from these pockets and then securing the gum tissue over the tooth's root. This procedure significantly reduces or completely removes these pockets to prevent the bacteria from settling in them again.
If the damage is extensive enough, the dentist may perform a soft tissue graft. During this procedure, tissue from the roof of your mouth is extracted and then connected to the gums where the roots of teeth are exposed. Sometimes if you have enough tissue available on surrounding teeth, the dentist will extract the graft from there. In either case, the graft integrates with the existing gum tissue to protect the tooth from damage.
In cases where there is damage to the bone and the gums, the dentist may attempt to encourage your body to regenerate the missing tissue. Like with a tissue graft, the dentist will place a regenerative material such as bone or a tissue-stimulating protein in the affected area and secure it in place. Over time and with proper oral care, the affected area should heal and help reverse the receding gums problem.
The best treatment for receding gums is to prevent the problem in the first place. As noted previously, this dental problem onsets gradually, so you may not realize your gums are withering away until it's too late. Getting regular dental checkups can help you detect the problem at an early enough stage to minimize any damage that may result.
For more information about receding gums, connect with a dentist in your area.