If you’ve noticed that your teeth look a little longer or your gums seem to be pulling back from your teeth, you have receding gums. This can have several causes. The most serious cause is periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. While there’s no cure for periodontal disease, you can and should manage it. The health of your mouth and teeth depend on it.
In a healthy mouth, the gums are pink and the gum line is consistent around all the teeth. If gum recession develops, the gums often look inflamed and the gum line looks lower around some teeth than around others. Gum tissue wears away, leaving more of a tooth exposed.
Gum recession can happen slowly, so it’s important to take a good look at your gums and teeth every day. If you notice receding gums and you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, make an appointment soon.
Symptoms of receding gums
In addition to less gum tissue around the teeth, receding gums often result in:
- bad breath
- swollen and red gums
- a bad taste in your mouth
- loose teeth
You may notice that your bite is different. You may also notice some pain or that your gums are especially tender. One of the major concerns with receding gums is that they become more susceptible to bacteria growth. This is why regular dental checkups, and good and daily oral care is essential.
Causes of gum recession
Gum recession has many causes. The most serious is periodontal disease. Other causes include:
- old age
- poor oral hygiene
- medical conditions, such as diabetes
Is your toothbrush causing your gums to recede?
Brushing your teeth too hard may also cause your gums to recede. Here are some tips for brushing your teeth:
- Use a soft toothbrush instead of one with hard bristles.
- Be gentle as you brush. Let the bristles do the work, not your arm muscles.
- Brush at least twice per day, and for at least two minutes at a time.
Other causes of gum recession
Additional causes of gum recession include the following:
- A sports injury or other trauma to the mouth can also lead to receding gums. For example, body piercing studs of the lip or tongue can rub against the gum tissue causing recession.
- Smoking also damages the gums. You’re at increased risk for gum recession if you chew tobacco or dip with a pouch of tobacco.
- You may experience gum recession if your teeth aren’t in quite the right alignment. Prominent tooth roots, misaligned teeth, or attachment muscles can force gum tissue out of place.
- Poor-fitting partial dentures can also cause gum problems.
- If you grind your teeth while you sleep, you may also notice gum recession. Grinding and clenching can put excessive forces on your teeth. This can cause gum recession.
A dental hygienist or a dentist can usually spot receding gums right away. If you look closely at all of your teeth, you may also notice the gum pulling away from the root of one or more teeth.
Gum recession tends to happen gradually. You may not notice a difference in your gums from one day to the next. If you see your dentist twice per year, they should be able to tell if there’s been recession during that time.
Treatment for gum recession
Gum recession can’t be reversed, meaning receded gum tissue won’t grow back. You can keep the problem from getting worse. Treatment usually depends on the cause of the gum problems. If hard brushing or poor dental hygiene is the cause, talk with your dental hygienist about changing your brushing and flossing behaviors. Using a daily mouth rinse that fights plaque may help get at plaque in between teeth. A dental pick or another type of interdental cleaner may also help keep hard-to-reach areas clean.
Mild gum recession increases your risk of bacteria forming in pockets around the affected area. Gum disease can develop more quickly where other gum disease exists. Mild gum recession doesn’t necessarily put your mouth at increased risk.
You may need to have occasional deep cleaning treatments called “scaling and root planing” to treat gum recession. During scaling and root planing, your dentist will clean tartar and plaque from the surface of your teeth and the roots of your teeth.
Receded gum tissue won’t grow back. You can, however, keep the problem from getting worse.
If gum recession is serious, a procedure called gum grafting can restore lost gum tissue. This procedure involves taking gum tissue from somewhere else in the mouth and grafting or attaching it to an area that has lost gum tissue around a tooth. Once the area heals, it can protect the exposed tooth root and restore a more natural look.
What is the outlook?
Receding gums may affect your smile and increase your risk for gum disease and loose teeth. You can slow or stop the progression of gum recession. You will have to take charge of your oral health. See your dentist twice per year if possible and follow your dentist’s instructions about proper oral hygiene.
If your gum recession is serious, you may want to consult with a periodontist. This is a specialist in gum disease. A periodontist can tell you about options such as gum grafting and other treatments.
Tips for prevention
A healthy lifestyle will also help. That means eating a balanced diet and quitting smoking and smokeless tobacco.
Try to see your dentist twice per year, even if you take great care of your teeth and gums. The earlier you or your dentist can spot problems developing, the more likely you’ll be able to prevent them from getting worse.