The gums in your mouth exist for a reason: They provide a soft seal around your teeth. And just like any other part of the body, the health of your gums matters. When those soft tissues start to deteriorate or recede, negative consequences may follow. After all, receding gums are a form of gum (periodontal) disease.
This condition happens when the protective soft tissue gradually pulls away from the tooth, sometimes so far as to reveal the tooth’s root. This is dangerous because not only does it expose the tooth’s delicate root to damage, it also creates small crevices where bacteria can collect. Over time, this can cause tooth decay or even tooth loss.
What Causes Receding Gums?
One of the most common causes of receding gums is poor dental hygiene. This is another reason why it’s crucial to brush and floss your teeth regularly. It’s also a good idea to limit sugar intake and use a mouthguard at night if you grind or clench your teeth.
Another cause of receding gums is brushing too rough, which can literally damage the soft, sensitive gums. Always use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush firmly, but not too hard. Avoid medium- and hard-bristled brushes that could actually damage your gums, root surface, and protective tooth enamel.
Aging and genetics can also cause gum recession. Studies have found that some people have a 30% increased chance of gum disease regardless of how well they take care of their mouth and teeth. There is nothing you can do about aging or genetics, but you can catch receding gums early with regular dental check-ups.
What Do Receding Gums Look Like?
Normal, healthy gums sit right atop your teeth and look pinkish in color. When gums start to recede, they literally pull back away from the teeth, exposing more of the tooth and its root.
How are Receding Gums Treated?
Receding gums is a fairly common condition and is easily diagnosed by a dental professional. He or she can measure how far the gums have receded — this gives them a better idea of the best treatment method to pursue.
If you have plaque build-up between the gums and teeth, your dentist will probably use a cleaning method called scaling and root planing to get rid of as much plaque and tartar as possible. This cleaning method is similar to how a dental hygienist removes plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth.
Sometimes removing the bacteria helps to treat the receding gums and is all that’s needed. If the bacteria is causing the gums to recede, removing it can stop further gum recession from occurring. But you have to improve your oral hygiene to prevent similar plaque and tartar build-up from happening again.
For more severe cases of receding gums, a dentist may recommend surgery to remove bacteria they can’t otherwise reach, and replace missing gum tissue. Types of receding gum corrective surgeries include:
- Flap surgery: When the dentist makes an incision in the gum tissue to create a “flap”. Under the flap, the dentist can remove any remaining bacteria that may be causing the receding gums. The flap is then put back into place.
- Gum graft: Soft tissue from another part of the mouth is surgically placed in the area of the receding gums. The oral surgeon will perform this type of surgery to protect the tooth and root from damage and reduce the appearance of receding gums.
- Bonding: Gum-colored resin is placed on top of the exposed tooth roots to reduce the appearance of gum recession and protect the root.
If you think you might have receding gums, there are treatment options available. The first step is getting an accurate diagnosis from your dentist. Schedule an appointment to find out for sure.