You may have heard of receding gums, but still, need to know how to prevent it and what causes it. Many people first notice gum recession when their teeth start looking longer than they used to. While their teeth are still the same size, the gums have started pulling away from the teeth, exposing more of the tooth.
A healthy gum line is consistent along an entire arch of teeth, without a lot of variation in the height of the gum line from one tooth to another. With receding gums, the gums often look red or darker pink and inflamed and the gum line looks lower or higher around some teeth than their neighbors.
Consequences of gum recession include:
- Increased sensitivity – Receding gums can expose the root of your tooth, which is more sensitive than the crown of the tooth. You may become more sensitive to hot, cold, and sweets.
- Risk of decay – A recession can increase the risk of decay by exposing more vulnerable parts of your tooth.
Receding gums can have multiple causes, the most serious of which is gum disease, called periodontal disease by dentists. In a patient with healthy gums, the gums are snugly attached to teeth. In patients with gum disease, infection occurs in pockets between the gums and tooth, making it hard for the two to stick together, even after the infection is removed. This can lead to gum recession.
Other causes of gum disease include:
- Old age – Your gums naturally recede very gradually as you age.
- Poor oral hygiene – Bad brushing, flossing and eating habits can lead to both gum recession and gum disease. Ask us for tips if you have trouble caring for your mouth consistently at home.
- Medical conditions – Chronic illnesses or conditions such as diabetes can contribute to gum recession.
- Aggressive brushing – If you brush too hard or use a hard or medium bristle toothbrush, you can cause gum recession by force. We can help you reassess your brushing habits if you notice recession.
- Teeth grinding – The excessive force caused by grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw has been linked to gum recession. We can treat and diagnose this condition to help mitigate problems.
The most important thing to know about gum recession is that it can’t be reversed. Extreme cases can be fixed surgically using tissue grafts, but we’d prefer that none of our patients ever reach that advanced stage. Like most dental conditions, prevention is the best approach. Keeping good oral hygiene habits, a healthy diet, and visiting us regularly for checkups are key to keeping your gums from receding.