Do you spit blood after brushing your teeth? Do you see blood in your floss after flossing? These can be signs of early gum recession. And while reversing gum recession may not be easy, there are a few measures that can prevent it from worsening.
Your gums are made of soft tissues that surround your teeth like a collar. Gum recession happens when these soft tissues pull back, exposing the structures lying underneath, otherwise known as the roots. Gum recession is quite common in people over the age of 40, and the symptoms can be painful.
If you think you may have receding gums, here are some symptoms:
- Teeth appear longer due to a receding gumline.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold food
- Red/swollen gums
- Pain while chewing
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
What Causes Receding Gums?
Receding gums can occur due to several factors such as:
1. Build-up of plaque and tartar
The primary cause of receding gums is bacterial infections, which eventually cause periodontal disease (gum disease). Bacteria, along with leftover food particles, result in the formation of a sticky layer on your teeth called “plaque.” Maintaining good oral hygiene can help remove this layer and prevent early gum recession. Plaque not removed and accumulated over a while hardens to form ”tartar” (also known as calculus). Professional cleaning is required to remove tartar. If not treated, gum disease can progress, causing bone destruction and loose teeth.
2. Brushing too hard
Aggressive brushing can wear away your tooth enamel over time and damage your gums. This daily trauma to gums causes them to recede. Remember, gentle brushing is always the way to go.
3. Misaligned teeth
If your teeth are misaligned, you may not have an even distribution of biting force. This can lead to undue pressure on the gums, which can lead to gum recession. A misaligned tooth can also hide additional plaque and tartar.
Some people are more prone genetically to gum diseases no matter how well they maintain their teeth. Thinning gums can also be hereditary.
5. Smoking and tobacco use
People who use tobacco in all forms are more prone to gum disease as they tend to have sticky plaque adhered to their teeth. Smoking also damages the blood vessels within the gums, which can initiate gum recession.
6. Hormonal changes
Women experience hormonal variations throughout their lifetimes, like during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause. These variations can impact their blood supply to regions like the gums, as well as their immune response to plaque, making them extra susceptible to gum recession and gum disease.
Often, people don’t realize their piercings can negatively impact their oral health. Lip or tongue jewelry can rub against the gums, causing inflammation. This persistent irritation can wear away the soft gum tissue and lead to gum recession.
Bruxism is the unconscious grinding or clenching of the teeth. This can happen during the stressful parts of the day, or even at night while you sleep. Obviously, this oral activity wreaks havoc on your teeth and gums and may cause a litany of problems, including gum recession.
Can Receding Gums Grow Back?
Sad to say, once gums recede, they can never grow back. The good news is that you can prevent them from further recession. Early gum recession can be kept in check with scaling and root planing. But if bone loss has occurred and your teeth have gotten to the point of loosening, the damage could be more severe and permanent.
Though the recession of gums cannot be reversed, you can prevent them from receding further if you intervene at the right time.
A dental visit is a mandatory first step. Your dentist and dental hygienist will analyze the cause of gum recession and advise the appropriate measures to help repair receding gums. These may include:
- Maintaining good oral hygiene: The best way to prevent receding gums is by following good and consistent oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and mouthwash. The number one reason for early/mild gum recession is periodontal disease (gum disease). Often, gum disease doesn’t cause any pain in its initial stages and hence, remains unnoticed. Early removal of dental plaque/tartar may prevent the progression of gum disease.
- Professional dental cleaning: Visit your dentist or dental hygienist for regular check-ups twice annually. While you’re there, ask about the removal of tartar through ultrasonic scalers. Yes, plaque can be removed manually by brushing and flossing daily, but you need professional help to get rid of tartar.
- Avoiding the vigorous brushing of teeth: Brushing is best when done with a soft bristle toothbrush with mild to moderate pressure in a small circular motion. The effectiveness of the brushing technique is more important than how hard you brush. Remember: Overbrushing can wear away the enamel layer of your teeth and cause gum recession.
- Getting braces: If your gum recession is caused by improperly aligned teeth, orthodontic treatment may be necessary to redistribute your biting force.
- Wearing a mouthguard: Your dentist may ask you to wear a mouthguard if you have the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth. A mouthguard can also prevent any injury while playing sports.
- Using a desensitizing toothpaste: Gum recession can make you sensitive to hot and cold foods and beverages. Using desensitizing toothpaste may help reduce tooth sensitivity.
- Quitting smoking: People who smoke should try quitting the habit as gum recession may lead to the loss of their teeth.
Does Mouthwash Help?
Anti-bacterial mouthwashes can control the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Your dentist may prescribe medicated mouthwash meant to keep the plaque under control. An easier option could be an over-the-counter mouthwash like SmartMouth Clinical DDS Activated Mouthwash that can help in preventing gum diseases and gum recession.
Early intervention to gum recession requires far less invasive treatments than severe cases. The dentist may use an instrument called ”probe” to check and measure the depth of the pocket formed. A pocket is a gap between the gums and teeth that occur when the gums detach from the roots of the teeth due to prolonged gum disease. If your gum recession is advanced beyond repair, a dentist may refer you to a periodontist (gum specialist) and recommend surgical procedures for gums.
Let’s take a closer look at the ways receding gums can be treated:
- Composite filling: If you are unhappy with the way your teeth look due to gum recession, your dentist can cover the exposed root surface with a tooth-colored composite filling. Moreover, a composite filling can prevent tooth sensitivity for a while.
- Deep cleaning: Open flap scaling and root planing is a procedure where the periodontist folds back the gum tissue for improved access to the root for more effective cleaning. After cleaning the tooth and the tooth roots, the surgeon smoothens the root surface to prevent future adhesion of calculus. The flap is then stitched back in place to either eliminate or reduce the depth of the pockets.
- Soft tissue grafts: Soft tissue grafting is an intricate procedure where the tissue is taken from the roof of your mouth and is stitched to the area where gums have receded. Today, gum grafting procedures are minimally invasive.
- Regenerative procedures: In advanced gum recession cases where bone loss is present, regeneration is a procedure that may help grow back the lost bone and gum tissue. Here, the periodontist folds back the gum tissue to access the root area. A regenerative material such as graft tissue, tissue-stimulating protein, or a membrane is placed at the recession site to stimulate your body to regenerate the lost bone and gum tissue.
The best method to fix receding gums is to remove the plaque gathered on the teeth before it hardens. Regular and routine oral care can also go a long way. Remember, you cannot reverse gum recession, but you can prevent early/mild gum recession from worsening with proper and timely care. Try to include an anti-bacterial mouthwash in your oral care routine to reduce the growth of disease-causing bacteria and thus prevent further gum recession. And be sure to keep an eye on any signs or symptoms of gum recession. When in doubt, always consult with your dentist.