Receding gums: Prevention and treatment of receding gums
Our gums’ play an important role in the health of our mouth. They act as a barrier against bacteria and keep our teeth in place. But what happens when they start to recede? If you think you’re experiencing receding gums, here’s what you need to know about the causes and how to treat it.
What are receding gums?
Gum recession is when the gum starts to pull away and exposes more of the tooth or the root. When this happens, a pocket or gap can also form between the tooth and gum, making it easier for bacteria to build up.
How do you spot receding gums?
Receding gums can be hard to spot as it usually happens very slowly. Gum recession is a common problem, yet most people only notice when a tooth looks longer than normal. If you’ve noticed any teeth that are exposed to the root, this might be a sign of gum recession.
Other signs of gum recession are:
- Pain or discomfort on your gum line
- Sensitivity to heat, cold and sugar
- Sensitivity when you brush or floss
The best way to know if you have receding gums is to visit your dentist. Your dentist will measure your gums and the periodontal pockets around each tooth. A healthy tooth has a periodontal pocket of between 1 and 3 millimetres.
People with gum disease have larger periodontal pockets. With gingivitis or periodontal disease, a periodontal pocket might measure 4-5 millimetres or more. These pockets can trap bacteria, food and debris and increase the change of tooth cavities and decay. That’s why it’s so important to see your dentist as soon as you notice the signs of receding gums.
What causes gums to recede?
Gum disease, periodontal disease and poor oral hygiene are common causes of receding gums, but there are other causes unrelated to gum disease. These include:
Genetics: Some people have thinner gum tissue and are predisposed to gum recession as they age.
Trauma: If you have suffered a mouth injury or trauma, your gums may recede.
Misalignment: If your teeth are misaligned your gumline may be thinner above some teeth.
Brushing hard: Brushing too hard is bad for your gums and can contribute to them receding.
Piercings: Lip or tongue piercings can rub against your gums causing them to recede.
Hormones: For women, changes in hormones can lead to gum recession. This can particularly happen during puberty, pregnancy and menopause as hormones fluctuate the most during those times.
Smoking: Smoking tobacco products prevents the blood from circulating as easily in your gums.
Teeth grinding: Teeth grinding can pressure the teeth, contributing to receding gums.
Left untreated, gum recession can lead to oral health problems, including loose teeth, tooth loss, and even bone loss. No matter what causes your gums to recede, you should always book a checkup with your dentist.
How is gum recession treated?
The treatment for receding gums will depend on what’s causing it.
To treat sensitivity: If your tooth feels sensitive your dentist can use a desensitising agent or bonding agent to reduce the sensitivity of the exposed tooth root.
To treat the tooth’s appearance: Dental bonding is one way of hiding the appearance of a long tooth. Your dentist can camouflage the area that is more exposed with a tooth-coloured resin. Gum recession surgery is another option. During this procedure your dentist will perform a gum graft from the roof of your mouth to replace the missing tissue and stitch it into place. While this may sound a bit scary, gum grafts are minimally invasive. A periodontist will usually perform the procedure.
To fix misalignment issues: If your gums are receding due to a tooth misalignment your dentist may recommend braces. This will help to reposition your teeth, making them easier to clean and may help the gum correct itself over time.
To treat early signs of gum disease: Receding gums are often caused by gum disease. Mild receding gums can be treated with a deep cleaning of the area. This could include tooth scaling and root planning of the affected tooth. These will remove plaque and tartar buildup on the tooth, root surface and gum line.
To treat bone loss: If gum recession has caused bone loss around your teeth, your dentist may suggest a procedure to regrow lost bone and tissue. This involves removing bacteria and using a regenerative material like a membrane or tissue-stimulating protein to encourage natural regeneration.
Can you reverse receding gums?
In most cases you can’t reverse receding gums, but you can prevent it from happening. Around 88% of people over 65 have receding gums. Keeping up with good oral hygiene practices throughout your life will help. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily and visiting the dentist regularly will help prevent gum disease which is often the root cause of receding gums.
Book an appointment now
If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity or have noticed your gums receding book an appointment now with Gentle Dental.