Everything You Need to Know About Receding Gums

Everything You Need to Know About Receding Gums

Healthy gums are essential to a beautiful smile and overall oral health. They firmly hug your teeth, providing support and acting as a barrier against harmful bacteria. However, receding gums are a common problem that can lead to tooth sensitivity, increased risk of decay, and even tooth loss. Understanding the causes and recognizing the early signs of gum recession is crucial for protecting your teeth.

Let’s take a closer look at gum recession, exploring causes beyond simply stating them, warning signs, treatment options, and how to prevent this condition from progressing.

What is Gum Recession?

Gum recession occurs when your gum tissue begins to wear away or pull back, exposing the sensitive roots of your teeth. This creates pockets around the teeth where harmful bacteria can easily accumulate, leading to potential oral health problems. Receding gums don’t happen overnight, instead, it’s usually a slow and gradual process.

What Causes Gum Recession?

Here’s a deeper look at the leading causes of receding gums:

  • Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease): The most common culprit is gum disease. This chronic infection is caused by bacteria in plaque buildup which triggers inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, this inflammation doesn’t just irritate gum tissue, but can eventually damage the supporting fibres and bone holding your teeth in place, contributing to recession.
  • Aggressive Brushing: Using excessive force or hard-bristled toothbrushes can gradually wear away your gums over time. Think of it like using harsh sandpaper on delicate fabric. Gentle brushing is your best defense.
  • Genetics: Some individuals are unfortunately born with thin or naturally weaker gum tissue. While this doesn’t guarantee problems, it makes them more prone to gum recession even with excellent oral care.
  • Grinding and Clenching (Bruxism): Teeth grinding or clenching puts undue stress on your teeth and the bone surrounding them. Over time, this constant pressure can contribute to gums receding, especially in areas bearing the brunt of the force.
  • Poor Oral Hygiene: Plaque buildup leads to an inflammatory condition called gingivitis, often the first stage of gum disease. If not addressed, this chronic inflammation is a major risk factor for the deeper infection and damage associated with recession.
  • Tobacco Use: Smoking and using other tobacco products not only harm overall health but also weakens your gums through decreased blood flow, making them more susceptible to receding and infection.

Signs and Symptoms of Gum Recession

Tooth discolouration can be a sign of receding gums

Be on the lookout for these signs of receding gums, and schedule a dental visit if you notice:

  • Teeth Appearing Longer: The most common visual sign. Your teeth may look unusually long as gum tissue pulls away, exposing more of the tooth’s structure, changing the proportions of your smile.
  • Tooth Sensitivity: The root surfaces of teeth lack the protective enamel found on the crowns. Exposed roots have microscopic channels leading to the nerve centre, resulting in discomfort, especially to hot, cold, or sweet foods and beverages.
  • Notch at the Gum Line: Sometimes, you might be able to feel a small indentation or notch near the base of a tooth where receding gum tissue leaves a dip on the root. This groove can trap food debris and bacteria, worsening the problem.
  • Change in Tooth Colour: The roots of your teeth are a darker yellow than the white crowns. Visible roots may make your teeth appear darker or discoloured near the gum line, affecting the overall aesthetic of your smile.
  • Loose Teeth: In very severe cases of gum recession, the bone supporting your teeth also weakens due to chronic infection. This leads to loose teeth or eventual tooth loss, requiring extensive dental work.

Treatment for Gum Recession

Your dentist will recommend treatment based on the severity of recession and the root cause:

  • Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Root Planing): A more thorough professional cleaning designed to remove plaque and tartar buildup from below the gum line and smooth rough root surfaces. This helps inflamed gum tissue heal and reattach to the tooth.
  • Antibiotics: Sometimes prescribed alongside a deep cleaning, topical or oral antibiotics can help fight any bacterial infection contributing to gum deterioration.
  • Gum Grafting Surgery: Can receding gums grow back? The simple answer is no. For severe recession, a gum graft procedure replenishes lost gum tissue. A section of healthy gum tissue is taken from another area of your mouth (often the palate) and grafted onto the areas of recession.
  • Addressing Underlying Causes: Successful gum recession treatment must also address any factors contributing to it. This could involve modifying brushing habits, quitting smoking, or exploring custom mouthguards for those who grind their teeth.

How to Stop Receding Gums

Gentle and routine brushing is helpful to prevent gum recession

Taking preventative steps can significantly lessen your risk:

  • Gentle Brushing Technique: Use a soft-bristled brush for gum comfort. Employ circular motions to gently massage gums and tooth surfaces, and avoid hard back-and-forth scrubbing, which can irritate delicate tissues. Tilt your brush at a 45-degree angle to effectively clean where the gums meet the teeth.
  • Regular Dental Visits: Professional cleanings remove stubborn tartar buildup that even diligent home care can’t eliminate. Tartar harbours bacteria, contributing to gum inflammation. Your dentist and hygienist will spot early signs of receding gums, allowing for timely treatment to prevent further damage.
  • Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Consistent brushing for two full minutes, twice a day, with fluoride toothpaste disrupts plaque formation. Flossing daily removes plaque and food debris from between teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach, lowering your risk of gum disease.
  • Quit Smoking/Tobacco Use: Smoking weakens your immune system’s ability to fight infection, making you more vulnerable to gum disease. Quitting is one of the most impactful steps you can take to prevent recession and safeguard your overall health.
  • Manage Bruxism: Grinding or clenching puts excessive force on teeth and the supporting bone, sometimes contributing to gum recession. Nighttime mouthguards cushion your teeth and minimize harmful pressure on the teeth and gums. Your dentist can assess if you have signs of bruxism and recommend the most appropriate type of mouthguard.

Maintaining healthy gums is a critical component of overall oral health. By understanding the causes, signs, and available treatments for gum recession, individuals can take proactive steps towards preventing this common dental issue. Regular dental checkups, proper oral hygiene practices, and addressing any underlying health concerns are essential for keeping your gums healthy.

For those seeking professional advice or treatment for gum recession, Bloor West Dentistry offers comprehensive dental care for the whole family. With a focus on preventive care and patient education, our team is dedicated to helping you achieve and maintain optimal oral health. If you’re looking for a family dentist in Toronto, contact Bloor West Dentistry at (416) 763-1283 to schedule an appointment.