If you look in the mirror and start to notice less of your gum tissue and more of your teeth, then this could well be a sign of gum recession in action. Receding gums could signify that you have gum disease, although there are also other causes.
Initially, gum recession doesn’t usually cause any discomfort, however, it isn’t something that you should ignore either. Unfortunately, as the condition progresses and starts to expose more of the tooth – particularly the tooth root – the teeth can become extremely sensitive to cold, heat and even air! So, the question is…
Why do our gums recede?
In order to explain, it’s worth taking a closer look at what the gums are and what function they play in the mouth…
The gums (or gingiva) are made up of a dense pink tissue that adjoins the base of the teeth. Each set of teeth has one gingiva and when intact, is designed to protect the roots of the teeth and to further stabilize the tooth.
Gum recession occurs when a person has experienced a loss of tissue in the gum area. This may be caused by a number of issues which we will explain below. In the meantime, when the base and roots of the tooth are uncovered, they are susceptible to attack from bacteria contained in plaque. This, in turn, can lead to tooth decay and eventually, tooth loss!
Receding gums causes
Of course, poor oral hygiene and periodontal (gum) disease can all be causes of receding gums. However, did you know that gingival recession can also be problematic in those with good oral health?
Some people, for instance, maybe prone to receding gums because of inherent or genetic factors. These factors include tooth thickness and tooth positioning.
Another common reason for gum recession is rigorous or overzealous tooth brushing. Often known as ‘over-brushing’ it’s caused when hard-bristled brushes are used continuously over time across the gum area. Unlike tooth enamel, the gum tissue is naturally soft and therefore isn’t geared up to withstand the hard-brushing that teeth can. As a result, the action of strenuous brushing can cause a loss of tissue in the gum which in turn can trigger receding gums.
Strangely enough, this type of gum recession tends to affect the left side of the mouth more, because most people hold their toothbrush with their right hand. As a result, they tend to apply greater pressure to the gums situated on the left side.
Other physical factors that can also cause receding gums are tongue and lip piercings, damage from dental treatment and habitual issues such as teeth grinding (known as bruxism). In addition and genetically, some people are born with naturally thinner gums and are therefore generally more exposed to gum shrinkage problems later in life.
As you can see, there are many factors that bring about gum recession, however, the main receding gums causes are:
- Gum (periodontal) disease
- Overbrushing (usually with a hard-bristled brush)
- Teeth grinding (bruxism) and
- Genetic or inherent factors such as thinner gums
So now we know what causes receding gums, let’s take a closer look at the symptoms…
Gum recession is a long term process, and over time you might start to notice receding gums symptoms such as:
The only part of a tooth you should expect to see on a healthy tooth is the crown. The main structure of a tooth (the roots and bone) is located beneath the surface (a bit like an iceberg) and therefore shouldn’t be seen. However, when gum recession kicks in, these normally unseen parts can become exposed, giving the appearance of a ‘longer’ tooth.
Remember we mentioned earlier that gums act as support for your teeth. Well, when that support is taken away (as in receding gums) it can cause the tooth or teeth to become loose over time and eventually to fall out!
Slight tooth sensitivity
As the underlying tooth structure becomes exposed, the teeth may start to become sensitive to heat or cold. So you may feel a slight twinge when you drink something hot or cold, or even when drawing in cold air.
Other than factors such as long teeth, teeth that are less than stable, and slight tooth sensitivity, people generally suffer no discomfort during the early stages of gum recession. This is why the problem isn’t always noticeable.
However, by undergoing regular dental check-ups your dentist can spot those receding gums symptoms that you might otherwise miss. This way, the problem can be dealt with early on before it becomes a bigger and costlier issue.
So we’ve now discussed the causes and symptoms of receding gums, let’s take a closer look at how the condition can be treated.
Gum recession treatments
In reality, treatment can vary depending upon the degree of the problem. Sometimes a simple change to a softer toothbrush and better flossing habits is all it takes to keep gum recession from progressing…
For more serious cases, however, a deeper dental cleaning is known in the trade as scaling and root planing may be an option. During the procedure, any plaque and tartar are skillfully and thoroughly removed, and the surface of the tooth root is smoothed or planed. This makes it harder for new bacteria to attach themselves.
Alternatively, when techniques such as scaling and root planing are no longer an option, patients may opt to undergo surgical techniques such as soft tissue gum grafting or more recent suture-free pinhole techniques designed to pull the gum back over the receded area.
Of course, the best way to minimize the problems of receding gums is to continually monitor any changes in your mouth. This is where regular dental check-ups come in. Look upon it as a regular service for your mouth. You get to ensure your mouth remains healthy for many years to come.
Looking for an experienced and affordable dentist to carry out a routine check-up? Contact the team at Beyond 32 Dental. We have the skills to spot problems and deal with them fast. Call today for an appointment on 02 8806 3799 and give your mouth the attention it deserves.