Gum recession is the gradual loss of gum tissue around the tooth, exposing the surface of the tooth’s root. This condition commonly causes gum disease by allowing bacteria to grow between the gum and tooth.
Symptoms of gum recession include:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Longer-looking teeth (due to more of the teeth being exposed)
- Larger spaces between teeth
- Bad breath, resulting from bacteria
While gum recession is a common problem, it is important to treat it quickly to prevent any further damage to your teeth.
What Causes Gums to Recede?
Several factors can cause gums to recede, including:
- Periodontal Disease (Gingivitis) – A major gum disease that damages the bone that supports the teeth and surrounding gum tissues.
- Aggressive Brushing – Brushing your teeth too hard or too often will cause corrosion of enamel on the tooth and start the recession of gums.
- Misaligned Bite – Teeth that are not aligned correctly can be difficult to care for properly and are more susceptible to tartar buildup, which can cause gums to recede.
- Tobacco Use – Tobacco can leave heavy plaque on the teeth, which can cause gums to recede.
- Lack of Dental Care – People who neglect routine dental care are more likely to suffer from gum disease and tooth decay, which are common causes of receding gums.
- Piercings – Piercings can rub against gums and tissue and cause them to recede from irritation.
- Genetics – People whose family has a history of gum recession are prone to having the condition.
- Smoking – It's no secret that smoking is bad for your dental health. Cigarettes cause gum tissue to lose important blood supplies, allowing secondary gum disease to occur.
- Bruxism - The prolonged force of grinding your teeth can also cause gums to recede even as it causes teeth to crack.
Can I Treat Receding Gums at Home?
If you catch receding gums early on, you may be able to prevent further damage by wearing a night guard, flossing between your teeth daily before brushing or buying a new toothbrush (especially if your current toothbrush is not labeled "soft"). There is also limited evidence that oil pulling and drinking green tea may help.
While good habits at home can help with mild gum recession, we still recommend seeing a dentist as soon as possible. Only your dentist can determine the full extent of the damage.
If the condition is serious, you may need a deep cleaning at the dentist. The most severe cases may require gum surgery, such as pocket depth reduction, regeneration and a soft tissue graft.
Dental Procedures to Treat Receding Gums
There are many dental procedures that treat receding gums, depending on your individual needs and the severity of the gum recession. Your dentist may recommend one of the following dental procedures:
- Deep Cleaning at the Dentist - This is the first treatment the dentist will likely recommend. A deep cleaning will remove plaque and tartar from the roots fo the teeth, as well as the surfaces above the gum line. Afterward, the dentist will use special instruments to smooth the roots, encouraging the gums to reattach to the teeth.
- Pinhole Surgical Technique (PST) - This relatively new treatment involves repositioning the gum back over the tooth root.
- Pocket Depth Reduction - In this procedure, a periodontist or dentist will fold back the recessed gum tissue and take the bacteria out of the "pockets." He will then resecure the gum tissue to its fitting place over the root of the tooth.
- Regeneration - In these cases, the bone anchoring the tooth is decayed because of gum recession and will need to be regenerated. The dentist will begin by folding back the gum tissue and removing the bacteria, just as he would in Pocket Depth Reduction. Once the bacteria is cleared, a regenerative material (graft tissue, tissue proteins, etc.) will be applied to begin the regrowth process.
- Soft Tissue Graft - The most common gum tissue graft procedure is called a Connective Tissue Graft. During this procedure, a piece of skin is cut at the top of the mouth and the connective tissue beneath the skin (the sub-epithelial tissue) is removed and stitched to the gum tissue around the exposed root. Once this is done, the skin on the roof of the mouth is sewn back together.
How Can I Prevent Receding Gums?
There are a number of ways to prevent gums from receding, such as:
- Monitor Changes – Be aware of anything different in your mouth. Talk to a dentist for their professional opinion as well.
- Good Dental Hygiene
- Regular Dental Cleanings
- Brushing and Flossing Regularly
- Eating Well - Foods that are especially acidic or bitter will wear on the tooth enamel and cause gum recession.
- Bite Splints – Wearing a custom piece bite splint (or night guard) will prevent grinding and reduce strain placed on the teeth. This will help prevent general gum recession.
- Soft Toothbrush – There are toothbrushes available that have soft bristles. These brushes are gentler on teeth and will not wear down tooth enamel.