If you’ve ever considered what causes receding gums you might be surprised to know that there are several different reasons. While age is one contributing factor (around 80% of adults over the age of 65 suffer from receding gums) by far the most common cause of gum recession is gum disease. Before we discuss the possible gum recession treatment, let’s understand first what is gum recession and what causes receding gums.
What is gum recession?
Gum recession or receding gums happens when the gum tissue begins to shrink away from the tooth. More often than not someone will notice the first signs of gum recession when their teeth appear bigger. The important thing to note here is that adult teeth don’t grow. Instead, it’s the gums that are shrinking.
As the gums start to recede, a person may also develop increased tooth sensitivity. This is because when the gum continues to pull back or shrink from the tooth, it will expose part of the tooth root. Unfortunately, this is where many of the nerve endings are.
What causes receding gums?
Aa already mentioned, the number one cause of receding gums is gum disease. It’s caused by a prolonged build-up of plaque and bacteria. If left, it forms a hard substance called tartar or calculus that destroys gum tissue. The main cause of accumulated plaque build-up is a poor or improper oral hygiene regime. However, other reasons include:
- Hormonal changes
- Prolonged illness
- Certain medications
- Habitual behaviours such as smoking
Other causes of gum recession include…
Although regular brushing of the teeth is necessary in order to maintain good oral health care should be taken. Gently and softly is the order of the day, as too much rigorous brushing will cause the gums to push back from the teeth and recede.
Receding gums can also occur through factors like age and genetics. As we age, saliva production will often decrease. This in turn can cause a condition known as xerostomia (or dry mouth for short.) Saliva is an essential part of good oral health and protects the gums from problematic bacteria. Therefore, a lack of it can cause the onset of bad bacteria which, in turn, can cause gum recession.
Likewise the same goes for those who have inherited thinner gums from other family members. It’s a known fact that those with thinner gums are 3 times more likely to suffer from receding gums.
Believe it or not, a crooked tooth or teeth can also cause the gums to recede. When a tooth is badly or ill-positioned it can place extra pressure on the gingival tissue. This in some cases can trigger gum recession.
If you have worn orthodontic braces at some point in your life, then you could be susceptible to gum recession. So why is this?
There are several reasons – firstly…
Fixed braces can make it difficult to brush and floss in between the teeth. As a result, food particles can become trapped between the brackets making any residue difficult to remove. Plaque will then form which, in turn, can lead to gum disease, which as we know is a major cause of receding gums.
Secondly, the pressure that braces put on teeth to move them can in some cases also cause the gums to react and start to recede from the tooth.
So now you have a better understanding of what causes receding gums, the next question is… ‘when gums do start to recede, can they grow back?’
Unfortunately, unlike skin, hair, and bone, gum tissue isn’t able to regenerate itself so once it’s lost, it’s lost! That said, there are several treatments that dentists can call upon to stop the problem from becoming worse. Treatments like scaling and root planing, for example, are used to great effect in the earlier stages of gum recession. This is where any hardened tartar is first removed and the tooth root is then planed to smoothen out the tooth roots. This allows the gums the chance to reattach evenly to the root and prevent any further tooth sensitivity.
For situations where receding gums have exposed large areas of the tooth root, an experienced dentist will also be able to perform a gum graft. As the name suggests, this outpatient technique involves removing a small amount of tissue from the roof of the mouth and grafting it onto the affected area. In doing so a gum graft not only reinstates the gum for a greater aesthetic smile but it helps to protect from further tooth sensitivity and possible infection.
While the above technique involves a surgical procedure, patients with gum recession problems may also benefit from the latest gum rejuvenation treatment. This is a pinhole technique that is both scalpel and suture free. Firstly a small pin-sized hole is made in the gum tissue and using a series of special instruments the gum tissue is pulled up over the tooth and gently reattached.
While the causes of receding gums and its subsequent treatments are varied, prevention is always better – and indeed – less costly, than the cure. For this reason, the best way to prevent gum recession is to practice good oral hygiene including regular brushing and flossing at home, plus attending frequent 6-monthly dental check-ups for regular cleaning.
If you would like to find out more about what causes receding gums or if you have noticed that your teeth appear more enlarged and/or sensitive, then we invite you to come and talk to Dr Jack Yang and the team at Beyond Infinity Dental. Dr Yang utilises the latest pinhole techniques to reinstate gum tissue as quickly, simply and as comfortably as possible.