Have you noticed your gums are less visible when you smile? Receding gums are a common issue among people of all ages. Affecting more than simply the look of your smile, receding gums are a sign of dental damage and disease. Left untreated, gums can recede to the point of pain and even tooth loss.
Even slight gum recession can be a warning sign of more serious gum problems to come. Let’s take a look at what causes gums to recede, and how it can be prevented.
What are Receding Gums?
Your gums act as a secure foundation for your teeth. If your gums shrink, that foundation weakens. Gum recession exposes the lower part of your teeth. Unfortunately, this exposure increases the risk of many different types of dental damage. As gums recede, infected “pockets” can form in the gum line. Plus, teeth can become loose and even fall out.
What are the Signs of Receding Gums?
Receding gums can be difficult to detect, especially in the early stages. Your gums might start to feel more sensitive, especially when eating or drinking anything cold. When your gums recede, your teeth will appear longer.
Long teeth can be hard to notice because the change can occur subtly. There is where regular dental checkups can really help. When your dentist can regularly examine your teeth, including taking pictures and x-rays, he or she will be able to spot even minor changes.
What Causes Gums to Recede?
Gum recession is so common because there are many different potential causes.
The most common cause of gum recession is gingivitis and periodontal disease. Improper dental care and consuming an excess of sugar can lead to gum infection. As gum infection becomes more severe, gums will recede.
But even proper dental care is no guarantee against gums receding. Gums can shrink naturally over time. Seniors have an increased risk of natural gum recession. Interestingly, gum recession also occurs in horses, which is where the phrase “long in the tooth” originates.
Using the wrong type of toothbrush can also contribute to gum recession. Bristles which are too firm can damage gums. Also, brushing excessively hard can also cause trauma. Pick a brush with soft bristles and make sure to use proper brushing technique.
Women also have an increased risk of gum recession. A common cause is hormonal changes which occur during pregnancy and menopause. Inform your dentist if you’re undergoing either.
Finally, stay away from tobacco products. Tobacco use leads to increased plaque, which then causes gums to recede. Of course, smoking and other tobacco use harm more than just your gums. They’re a source of many major dental issues including oral cancers.
How is Minor Gum Recession Treated?
The first step is to schedule an appointment with your dentist. He or she will be able to evaluate your gums and develop a proper treatment plan.
Minor gum recession can be addressed with a thorough deep dental cleaning. Called scaling and root planing, this technique removes tartar and plaque from underneath the gum line. While gum tissue won’t grow back, deep cleanings do help prevent additional recession.
As gums recede, pockets develop between the gums and teeth. Unfortunately, bacteria easily and quickly builds up in these pockets to infect surrounding tissues. A pocket depth reduction procedure is when this infected tissue is removed. The gum is folded back so the infected tissue can be cleaned out. Then the gum tissue is placed back over the tooth root.
Periodontal regeneration starts out as a similar procedure, where gum tissue is folded back for cleaning. However, material is also placed inside the mouth to encourage growth of new bone or tissue.
How is Significant Gum Recession Treated?
Serious gum recession requires a more extensive procedure called gum grafting. Gum tissue is taken from your own mouth and grafted onto an area where gums have receded heavily. This is done to protect exposed tooth root and improve appearance. There is a limit to how much gum tissue can be taken, so gum grafting is typically only done if rather significant damage has occurred. This type of procedure is also called a pedicle graft.
A soft tissue graft is a similar procedure as a gum graft. Only instead of using gum tissue, healthy tissue is taken from elsewhere in the mouth, typically from the roof. If no healthy tissue is available to graft inside your mouth, donor tissue is also an option.
Gum surgeries both major and minor typically aren’t performed by a general dentist. Instead, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist.
Are Gum Recession Treatments Affordable?
Aside from concerns about the procedure itself, many people are concerned about paying for treatments. Dental discount plans are often an effective way to treat gum recession quickly and affordably. A discount card entitles members to discounts of 15% to 60% on a variety of dental procedures often including check-ups and gum disease treatments such as deep cleanings and grafts. Discount plans only take a few days to activate and can then be used as often as you wish during the year.
Unfortunately, if gum recession is left untreated, pain and tooth loss are the likely result. So, you’ll want to treat gum recession as early as possible. Fortunately, treatments are safe, easy and affordable (with the help of dental discount card). By taking care of your gums, you’re helping protect the foundation of your entire oral health.