Receding gums is when the gums are pulled back, exposing the tooth root. Additionally, this creates a space where bacteria and plaque can build up.
These gum problems can occur for many reasons, such as bad oral habits, genetics, misalignment of the teeth, and periodontal disease.
Unfortunately, receding gums don’t grow back. If it is left untreated, gum recession can lead to gum disease along with bone and tooth loss. Even if the receding gums can’t grow back, there are ways to treat gingival recession to prevent the condition from getting worse.
There are surgical procedures that can restore the health of the gums. Cosmetical procedures like gum lifts and contouring can improve the appearance of receding gums.
Sign of gum disease
Gum disease is a serious dental problem. It’s imperative to know the symptoms of gum disease so that you can spot early signs of it and get treated for it right away. Letting it be can lead to severe gum disease and even tooth loss.
Here’s what to look for:
- Red swollen gums: One of the early signs of gum disease is inflammation along the gum line. You may notice that your gums feel painful or tend to bleed when you brush or floss.
- Increased tooth sensitivity: If you feel discomfort or pain when drinking hot or cold beverages, it can be a strong sign of gum disease. This is especially true if the sensitivity lingers for more than a few seconds after the substance is gone. The tooth becomes more sensitive to temperature when the tooth root is exposed.
- Loose teeth: Gum disease will destroy the bones that hold your teeth in place. Thus, if you notice any loose teeth or your teeth moving, it’s a good indicator of gum disease. Periodontitis can even change your bite and how your teeth fit together.
- Shrinking gums: You may notice that your teeth look larger than normal. If that’s the case, your gums are probably shrinking. When your gum is receding, it separates from the tooth, which creates a pocket. This causes your teeth to look longer than normal.
- Bad breath: Bacteria can feed on the plaque stuck within your gums and teeth, and releases toxins that irritate the teeth and gums. This can result in a foul smell and in turn, bad breath.
What causes receding gums?
It’s tough to nail down a specific cause of gum recession. That’s because there are many possible causes and risk factors associated with receding gums.
It typically starts with plaque buildup within the teeth and gums. Over time, the damage from the plaque causes the gums to pull away from the teeth. Pockets can form and cause tooth decay and tooth loss.
Here are the common causes of gum recession:
- Periodontal disease.
- Teeth grinding.
- Misaligned bite or crooked teeth.
- Using a toothbrush with hard bristles or aggressive brushing.
- Smoking tobacco.
- A family history of gum disease.
- Diabetes or HIV.
- Old age.
- Bad oral care such as lack of flossing.
- Teeth grinding or clenching.
- Body piercing of the tongue or lip.
- Hormonal changes in women such as during puberty, menopause, or pregnancy.
How can I stop receding gums?
The best way to stop receding gums is to book an appointment with a dentist. Your dentist can then evaluate your oral health and determine the best treatment option for your receding gums.
Regular checkups with your dentist ensure they can spot any gum problems immediately, especially in the early stages where surgery may not be required.
Your dentist may use a probe to perform their physical examination of the receding gums. The probe will measure the gum pockets and see whether they are larger than normal.
Typically gum pockets are about 1 to 3 millimetres. If it’s bigger, it’s an indicator of gum disease. At this point, the dentist may refer you to a periodontist who is a specialist in gum problems.
There are many treatment options available for receding gums. If it is mild gum recession, it can be treated by deep cleaning the infected area.
This deep cleaning is also called tooth scaling and root planing, which removes the tartar and plaque buildup on the root surfaces. Additionally, antibiotics can be prescribed to eliminate harmful bacteria.
In severe cases where the receding gums cannot be treated with deep cleaning due to the pockets being too deep or excess bone loss, gum surgery may be required to restore the damaged gum and bone.
Scaling and root planing
Scaling and root planning is a two-part surgical procedure done by the dentist. A local anaesthetic may be used to numb the pain.
First, the dentist will remove all hardened tartar and plaque above and below the gum line.
Secondly, they will perform root planing, which means to smooth out the teeth roots. This helps the gum reattach to the teeth once the cleaning is done.
Once the procedure is completed, it’s normal to have red or swollen gums. Your dentist may advise using an antimicrobial mouthwash to prevent infection.
In severe cases, the periodontist may advise gum surgery for the receding gums. There are two types of gum surgery, and the periodontist will determine the right treatment option.
- Open flap scaling and planing – During flap surgery, the gums are folded back to allow the dentist or periodontist to access the tooth roots. When the gums are folded back, they will smoothen and clean the roots. After the deep cleaning, the gums are attached securely to cover up the exposed root.
- Regeneration – If the gum tissue or bone has been damaged, surgical treatment may be needed for restoration. Like scaling and planing, the dentist will remove the bacteria by cleaning above and below the gum line. They will then take a regenerative material such as graft tissue, tissue-stimulating protein, or membrane and directly apply it to the damaged tissue or bone. Finally, the gum is snugly reattached over the tooth root.
Gum recession may cause a loss of gum tissue.
To restore gum health, the periodontist will take a tissue graft from the roof of your mouth or surrounding gums and have them stitched to the gum tissue.
The ideal is to restore the gums and cover up the exposed root of the tooth.
Maintaining healthy gums is the best way to prevent receding gums. Even if your gums have already receded slightly, you can stop the problem from getting worse by having good dental hygiene.
Follow these guidelines to prevent gum recession:
- Visit a hygienist for routine checkups and teeth cleanings.
- Use a soft toothbrush and brush twice daily to keep your gums healthy.
- A toothbrush with soft bristles helps preserve your enamels. Aggressive brushing or hard bristles can wear on your enamel and worsen the gum recession.
- Floss and use mouthwash daily. Along with brushing, these are good oral hygiene habits to practice. They help dislodge good particles and get rid of bacteria stuck in your gums and teeth.
- Consider home remedies such as oil pulling. This is a method where you swish an edible oil around your mouth to whiten and clean your teeth. Many people use organic substances such as sesame oil, coconut oil, or tea tree oil. These oils have antimicrobial properties that protect your teeth from germs and bacteria that lead to gum disease.
- Avoid smoking tobacco. Frequent tobacco will ensure your gums remain healthy. Furthermore, it helps to improve circulation and reduce gum irritations.
- Wear bite splints or night guards. Clenching or grinding places a lot of pressure on your teeth, causing the enamel to wear down and the gums to recede. Bite splints can prevent gum recession and reduce the potential strain on your teeth. Depending on your stress levels, you can wear these bite splints or nightguards during the day or at night.
- Consider getting orthodontic treatment to help correct any bite problems or misaligned teeth before the gum recession occurs. Having an overbite or underbite is one of the main causes of receding gums.