Gum recession is when the margin of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth wears away, or pulls back, exposing more of the tooth, or the tooth’s root. When gums recede, gaps can form between the gum and tooth, allowing disease-causing bacteria to build up. If left untreated, the surrounding tissue and bone structures of the teeth can be damaged, sometimes resulting in tooth loss. Receding gums is a widespread dental condition. Most people aren’t aware that they have receding gums since it occurs gradually. The first sign of gum recession is usually tooth sensitivity, or you may notice a tooth looks longer than normal. Typically, a notch can be felt near the gum line. Gum recession is not something you want to ignore. If you think your gums are receding, make an appointment with your dentist.
Symptoms of receding gums
Recognizing and treating the symptoms of gum disease are important to prevent further problems. The symptoms of gum disease are:
- Bleeding gums during and after when the teeth are brushed.
- Gums that are swollen, tender and darker than usual.
- Gums that are visibly pulling away from the teeth.
- Pockets of decay along gum line.
- Teeth that have shifted or are becoming loose.
- If your mouth tastes metallic or you have consistent bad breath.
- These are the major symptoms but you could have individual signs of gum disease.
Causes of Gum Recession:
- Periodontal diseases: These are bacterial gum infections that destroy gum tissue and supporting bone that hold your teeth in place. Gum disease is the main cause of gum recession.
- Your genes: Some people may be more susceptible to gum disease. In fact, studies show that 30% of the population may be predisposed to gum disease, regardless of how well they care for their teeth.
- Aggressive tooth brushing: If you brush your teeth too hard or the wrong way, it can cause the enamel on your teeth to wear away and your gums to recede.
- Poor Oral Hygiene: Inadequate brushing, flossing, and rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash makes it easy for plaque to turn into calculus (tartar) — a hard substance that builds on and between your teeth and can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning. It can lead to gum recession.
- Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in female hormone levels during a woman’s lifetime, such as in puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, can make gums more sensitive and more vulnerable to gum recession.
- Smoking: Tobacco users are more likely to have sticky plaque on their teeth that is difficult to remove and can cause gum recession.
- Grinding and clenching your teeth: Clenching or grinding your teeth can put too much force on the teeth, causing gums to recede.
- Crooked teeth or a misaligned bite: When teeth do not come together evenly, too much force can be placed on the gums and bone, allowing gums to recede.
- Body piercing of the lip or tongue: Jewelry can rub the gums and irritate them to the point that gum tissue is worn away.
Certain medications can cause dry mouth This increases your risk for receding gums. Dry mouth means your mouth has less saliva than it should. Without adequate saliva, the tissues in your mouth can become vulnerable to bacterial infections and injuries.
Receding gums are most common in adults 40 years of age and older. For this reason, it is often misconceived as a normal sign of aging. Also, more men than women develop receding gums.
When diagnosed in its early stages, gum recession often doesn’t cause other health problems and doesn’t need to be treated; simply changing your dental routine and following your Beaufort SC dentist’s instruction can prevent further gum recession. However, if your gums have receded severely, or if you’re experiencing dangerous complications like infections or damaged tissue, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to repair your gums.
The most minor surgical procedure some dentists recommend involves cleaning the bacteria out from under the infected gum. Your periodontist will provide local anesthesia and fold back the damaged gum tissue, remove the bacteria, and then secure the gum tissue back in place over the root. This allows the gum to heal naturally without increased risk of infection.
Sometimes, a more drastic measure is needed to treat heavy gum recession. “Regeneration” of lost bone or tissue is performed using a tissue graft or a tissue-stimulating protein, which encourages your body’s natural replenishment or tissue to that area. Your periodontist will provide a tiny graft or proteins that encourage your gums to grow back, covering the exposed root of your tooth. In other cases, your doctor may perform a soft tissue graft, in which a flap of skin is cut from the roof of the mouth, where connective tissue is removed and used to cover the receding gum, encouraging natural growth. This tissue is generally tougher than your gums, which helps prevent future gum recession. The flap is then sewn back to the top of your mouth.
Gum surgeries to treat gum recession are typically performed with local anesthetic and require only minor recovery with over-the-counter painkillers. In most cases, a successful gum graft will prevent the area from receding in the future because the grafted skin is hardier than the rest of your gums.
Care after a Gum Graft
If you have a gum graft, your dentist will tell you how to care for your gums. This may include using a special mouth rinse or changing what you eat. A bandage or dressing may be placed over the graft to help it heal.
Since gum grafts are a kind of surgery, the area may be tender or sore, and it may swell. Most patients can resume their normal routines the next day. However, you may need to avoid chewing where the surgery was done for some time, up to a week or two.
The success of the gum graft depends on several things. To help your gums heal after surgery:
- Avoid smoking or using any kind of tobacco.
- Do not drink alcohol.
- Follow any other instructions from the dental team.
There are other things that can slow down healing. These include clenching or grinding your teeth,diet or nutrition problems, and some medicines or health issues. Be sure to tell your dentist if any of these things apply to you. After your gums have healed from surgery, keep your teeth and gums healthy by brushing gently twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Also, be sure to clean between teeth daily with floss or another between-the-teeth cleaner.
Preventing Gum Recession
Good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups are the best ways to prevent gum recession; however, making other health changes can also help prevent your gums from receding unnecessarily.
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a balanced diet
- Visit the dentist regularly to monitor your dental health
- Brush and floss regularly, and don’t brush or floss too hard
- Consider using a nightguard or retainer while you sleep if you tend to grind or clench your teeth
Looking for a Dentist Office in Beaufort, SC?
If you are experiencing dental problems related to gum recession, be sure to contact our dental office. Drs. Covington or DuRant can work with you to develop a solution to help alleviate your symptoms and restore function to your smile. To schedule an appointment, call (843) 986-0177 or request an appointment online.