The term ‘receding gums’ refers to when your gums draw back from your teeth, exposing the root beneath. The first sign tends to be increased tooth sensitivity, but you may also notice a tooth looks longer than normal or feel a notch where the gum meets the tooth (the area known as the gum line).
Although a common dental problem, gum recession should not be ignored as it can be a sign of gum disease. noticing and treating receding gums at the earliest stage – and before it develops into anything worse – is vital.
What Are The Gums?
The gums, or gingivae, are composed of pink tissue in the mouth that meets the base of the teeth. There is one gum or gingiva for each set of teeth.
Gingival tissue is dense. It has a good supply of blood vessels beneath a moist surface, otherwise known as a mucous membrane. The gingival tissue connects with the rest of the mouth lining but is pink instead of shiny red.
The gums are firmly attached to the jawbone and tightly cover each tooth up to the neck. When intact, the gums cover the roots of the teeth and protect them. Gingival recession happens after a person has experienced a loss of tissue in the gum. It exposes the fragile roots of the teeth to bacteria and plaque and can lead to decay.
What Causes Receding Gums?
There are several different factors that can cause the gums to recede, including:
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, refers to the infection and inflammation of the gums and other structures in the mouth. This inflammation occurs due to an accumulation of bacterial deposits called plaque.
Factors that may cause or contribute to periodontal disease include:
- poor oral hygiene
- crooked teeth
- damaged or faulty fillings
- bridges or partial dentures that no longer fit
- a genetic predisposition
- hormonal changes due to pregnancy or oral contraceptives
- medications that cause dry mouth
- certain immune disorders
- smoking or the use of any tobacco product
There are two stages of periodontal disease:
Gingivitis causes gum redness, swelling, and sometimes bleeding. Without treatment, gingivitis may lead to periodontitis.
Periodontitis is the later stage of periodontal disease and can cause the gums to recede.
As the gum and connective tissues pull away from the tooth, a pocket forms between the tooth and gum, which begins to accumulate bacteria. Over time, the bacteria cause further inflammation. If the gums recede too much, it may lead to bone loss, which can cause teeth to loosen or fall out.
Forceful Or Incorrect Brushing
Regular brushing is essential for maintaining good oral hygiene. However, using an incorrect brushing technique could actually contribute to receding gums.
The gingival margin is the part of the gum that comes into contact with the crown of the tooth. Brushing incorrectly or too hard can damage the gingival margin, possibly triggering gum inflammation and recession.
Incorrect brushing factors that can trigger gum recession include:
- applying too much pressure
- using a hard or medium bristled toothbrush
- brushing the teeth in a broad, horizontal motion
Teeth Grinding And Clenching
Some people grind their top and bottom teeth together while sleeping. The motion of teeth grinding puts intense pressure on the gums, which can cause them to recede over time.
Teeth grinding can also cause teeth to become loose in their sockets. Grinding creates deep pockets between the tooth and the gum, where bacteria can collect. These bacteria trigger gum inflammation, which can make gum recession worse.
Sustaining direct trauma to the gum tissue may cause the gums to recede in that area. Such injuries may occur in the following contexts:
- during a fall or other accident
- during dental procedures
- while wearing ill fitting partial dentures
- while playing contact sports
Many people with receding gums may have no concerns about them early on and might not be aware that their gums are receding.
However, when people have receding gums, they may experience the following:
- concerns about changing appearance, as the tooth appears longer and the space between teeth increases
- fear of losing teeth
Most importantly, receding gums can be a symptom of underlying dental problems, including gum disease, and can increase the risk of tooth decay and tooth loss. They can also lead to bad breath and bleeding gums.
Can Receding Gums Cause Sensitive Teeth?
Receding gums are one of the leading causes of tooth sensitivity. This is because when gums begin to recede they can leave the soft dentine inside your tooth exposed. Dentine is full of millions of tiny holes that lead directly to the nerve at the centre of the tooth. When you eat or drink something cold, hot, sweet or sour this stimulus can trigger the nerve causing that short, sharp sensation of sensitivity pain — which is why maintaining good gum care is essential.
The treatment for receding gums depends on the underlying cause. The following treatments can help reattach or restore gum tissue around the teeth:
Scaling And Root Planing
In cases of gum recession, your dentist might suggest scaling and root planing. This is a two-part procedure done by your dentist. Firstly, all the plaque and hardened tartar above and below the gum line (where the gum meets the tooth) is removed. Then your dentist will do root planing, which is smoothing out your teeth roots to help the gums reattach to the teeth. Your dentist may offer a local anesthetic during the procedure and it may take more than one visit to complete.
After your treatment it’s normal for your gums to be red, swollen and sore and for there to be increased sensitivity. Your dentist may recommend using a short course of antimicrobial mouthwash to help reduce bacteria and prevent infection.
Scaling and planing is often enough to fix the problem, but you will need to have regular check ups to make sure your receding gums have improved and are not getting worse. It’s also important to maintain a good oral health routine to protect your gums.
Gum Graft Surgery
A dentist may recommend gum graft surgery (GGS) if a person’s gums have severely receded.
During gum graft surgery, a surgeon will take a small piece of gum tissue from elsewhere in the mouth and use it to cover the exposed tooth roots. gum graft surgery helps prevent bone loss and the gums from receding farther. It can also protect the previously exposed tooth roots from decay.
Pinhole Surgical Technique
Pinhole surgical technique (PST) is a relatively new treatment for mild to moderate receding gums.
Pinhole surgical technique is a minimally invasive procedure that involves making a tiny hole in the gum tissue above the exposed tooth root.
A dentist will insert a special tool into the hole to separate the gum from the tooth, then they will stretch and reposition the gum back over the exposed tooth root.
The tips below can help slow or stop the progression of receding gums:
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
The following oral hygiene tips can help:
- flossing between the teeth at least once per day
- using a fluoride toothpaste
- brushing the teeth twice per day using a soft bristled toothbrush
- using an antiseptic mouthwash to reduce bacteria and flush out debris
- choosing a size and shape of toothbrush that allows access to all parts of the mouth
- replacing toothbrushes at least every 2–4 months
- attending regular dental appointments
Use The Correct Brushing Technique
Adopting the correct brushing technique can help prevent the gums from receding. dentists provide the following guidelines:
- Place the toothbrush against the gums at a 45 degree angle.
- Applying gentle pressure, sweep the toothbrush back and forth using small, tight strokes.
- Brush the outer and inner surfaces, as well as the chewing surfaces, of the teeth.
- When cleaning the inner surfaces of the front teeth, hold the toothbrush vertically.
- Brush the teeth for 2 minutes in total.
People can also ask their dentist for tips on modifying this technique to managing their receded gums.
Wear A Mouthguard At Night
Wearing a mouthguard at night can help prevent gum recession due to teeth grinding. Mouthguards create an even pressure across the jaw and act as a physical barrier to separate the top and bottom teeth.
Mouthguards are available from most pharmacies. A dentist can also make a customized mouthguard, which will provide a better fit.
Replace ill Fitting Dentures
Partial dentures that were once a good fit can become incompatible with the mouth over time. This can happen for several reasons, including:
- the bone and gum ridges shrinking over time
- differences in jaw alignment
- general wear and tear of the partial dentures
Ill fitting partial dentures can rub and irritate the gums, causing the gums to recede around healthy teeth. People can prevent this by replacing partial dentures as needed.
Visit The Dentist Regularly
Attending regular dental checkups is vital for detecting the early stages of gum recession. Checkups also enable the dentist to identify and replace any faulty fillings or ill fitting partial dentures, which can contribute to receding gums.