By Dr. Laura Kearney
What are Receding Gums & Who is at Risk?
When your teeth are healthy, the gum tissue will fit around each tooth perfectly. With receding gums, the gums begin to pull away or recede from the teeth. When the gum tissue pulls away from the tooth, it can leave the tooth roots exposed. Due to the fact that the root surface does not have hard enamel covering it the root can become extremely sensitive. This exposure also puts the tooth at a higher risk for decay, infection, and even loss.
Gum recession can affect people of all ages. According to a study done by SUNY Buffalo, over 50% of the population has at least one tooth with gum recession measuring 1 mm or more. However, their study did conclude that 88% of people age 65 and older have at least one site with receding gums and only 50% of people ages 18 to 64 have at least one site with gum recession. While everyone is at risk, the extent of recession increases with age.
Gum recession can be caused by a number of reasons. Instances of receding gums are found in patients with both good and poor oral hygiene. The following are the most common causes of receding gums:
- Periodontal disease
- Improper brushing, brushing too hard, using a hard-bristle toothbrush, or even over-brushing
- Genetics – some are born with gums that are very thin or weak
- Tobacco use
- Trauma to the gums such as sports-related injuries
- Misaligned teeth
- Dentures that do not properly fit
- Clinching and grinding of the teeth
Treating receding gums is very important, as the condition may get worse over time. The type of treatment you receive for gum recession will often depend on the cause.
If the recession is caused by periodontal disease, the first step is typically scaling and root planing. Your dentist will remove plaque from the tooth and root surface which helps gum tissues heal and reattach to the tooth. This treatment paired with exceptional at-home oral care can help keep gum disease and gum recession under control.
If the recession is caused by improper brushing, your dentist can show you a better way to brush your teeth in order to prevent new damage to your gums.
If the recession is caused by dentures that are not properly fitting, your dentist can make new ones for you or readjust the existing ones.
If the recession is caused by the clinching or grinding of teeth a bite guard may help limit the recession.
If the gum recession is advanced, you may need a gum graft. Your dentist will take a thin piece of gum tissue from elsewhere in the mouth and attach it to the site where the gum tissue has receded. The graft will cover and protect the once exposed roots and improve the look of your smile.
To prevent further damage after seeking treatment, we advise you maintain excellent oral hygiene, use proper brushing techniques, avoid the use of tobacco, and visit your dentist regularly.