With so much focus on perfectly white and straight teeth, sometimes gums tend to get overlooked. Without healthy gums, there would be no teeth! Not only do they hold your teeth in place but they keep the structure of your bite healthy and much more. When gums aren’t cared for properly, they can develop a problem called recession, and it usually occurs over time. It’s an all too common issue where gums gradually erode away making the gum line smaller and smaller, exposing teeth closer to the root. When this occurs, pockets or gaps can appear on the gums making space for infections to develop and become damaged. Luckily there are things you can do to prevent gum recession and to maintain a healthy and bright smile.
What Causes Recession?
There are several factors that can lead to gum recession, some that are out of your control, but it’s important to be aware of them to see whether you are at risk.
Periodontal disease: If you’re suffering from gum disease and often deal with bacterial gum infections, chances are that your gums are slowly but surely receding. Without proper medical attention, this could eventually lead to tooth loss as well.
Poor dental care: Unfortunately, there is still a large percentage of people who do not regularly visit the dentist and develop an excess of plaque and tartar on their teeth. Along with insufficient brushing and flossing, not having a professional clean this build-up can cause recession to occur.
Genetics: Sometimes, no matter how well you take care of yourself, your genes predispose you to certain illnesses or health deficiencies. Some researchers even suggest that around 30% of the population will suffer from some form of gum disease because of hereditary issues.
Hormones: This issue particularly affects women. During times of hormonal change, like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, the gums can become particularly delicate. Recession can sometimes occur during these events because the tissue is more prone to damage and inflammation.
Improper brushing: Some people may inadvertently be brushing their teeth incorrectly and often times too hard. Aggressive tooth brushing can quickly erode the gum line away. It’s important to use a soft-bristled brush and use small circular motions to remove debris from teeth.
Smoking or chew: Tobacco products are the cause of many illnesses and health issues, but teeth and gums take a particularly big hit when it comes to cigarettes and chew. Not only do they expose the mouth to hard chemicals but they can also cause an increase in sticky plaque.
Bite issues: A misaligned bite can lead to unevenly distributed amounts of pressure on different teeth. People who have these alignment issues may often have crooked teeth, as well. These people are most often going to deal with some form of gum recession.
Clenching or grinding: Some people have jaw issues that cause them to clench or grind their teeth. This can really wear down a person’s natural bite line and place too much pressure on the gums and bone line. This can lead to gum recession gradually.
Lip or tongue piercings: For those who choose to wear them, it’s important to know that chipped teeth and irritated gums are a risk of these piercings and should be avoided if previous gum or tooth issues are present.
When gum recession cannot be avoided or is already at an advanced state, there are several treatment options you can look to.
Deep cleaning: If the recession is mild, your dentist can do a deep cleaning to remove tartar and plaque buildup. They can also give you a round of antibiotics to clear up any existing infection. This cleaning isn’t a cure, however, because the recession cannot be undone. After this procedure, you must take heed and continue to take very good care of your oral health, or else the recession will continue.
Scaling or root planing: For moderate to more severe cases, your dentist can attempt to clean the area thoroughly by using a technique called scaling or “open flap” and root planing. The dentist carefully removes tartar and built up plaque, and the exposed tooth root is smoothed out, making it harder for more plaque to stick to it. Harmful bacteria is removed from infected pockets by pulling back the affected gum tissue, cleaning it, and securing it back into place over the tooth’s root.
Regeneration: In cases of most severe gum recession usually the bone that holds teeth in place is destroyed and needs to be regenerated. The dentist must open the gums, cleaning them out of bacteria and a regenerative material is grafted onto the bone and tissue that will encourage the body to continue to grow it in the area. The gum is them secured back onto the bone and around the teeth.
Tissue graft: Just like generation, this procedure is for people who have severe gum and tissue damage. A connective tissue graft uses a flap of skin from the roof of the mouth and stitched to the exposed root of the teeth affected by gum recession. There are various version of this surgery, and the best kind will be based on a case by case basis by your dentist.
The best way to avoid gum recession is overall good oral care. Brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is at the very basis of preventing many painful and costly procedures that people may end up needing because they’ve neglected to mind their teeth and gums! Gum recession can happen slowly, and you may not notice just how much they are beginning to recede because you look at them every day. That’s why it’s important to see a dentist bi-annually for cleanings! They will be able to keep track of your gum and tooth health and monitor any changes that are happening. If you are experiencing gum recession, speak to your dentist about bite issues, or other problems that may be causing it in order to avoid even bigger issues in the future.