Gum recession is a common dental condition that happens when your gum pulls away from its margin, exposing the teeth beneath it. Normally, a tooth is much longer than it appears; a part is visible while the remainder is covered by the gum. Gum recession may affect only one or a few teeth, but it can also be generalized and affect all the teeth.
Anyone can develop receding gums at any age. Apart from it causing cosmetic problems which can affect mental health, receding gums also cause symptomatic dental complaints.
How to recognize receding gums
Typically, people first get concerned about receding gums after they notice that their tooth or teeth appear longer than usual. They then consult with a dentist when it becomes a cosmetic worry.
However, before this stage, your body will show signs which are often overlooked. These signs of gum recession include:
- Increased tooth sensitivity: This is an uncomfortable sensation in the teeth. Some people describe it as a ‘shocking’ sensation that happens during or immediately after brushing the teeth. It can also be felt during eating or drinking of substances with extremes of temperature – very hot or very cold foods.
- A notch at the gum margin: The junction between your tooth and gum may appear swollen or abnormal before the gum starts to pull away.
- You may notice a separation between your gum and tooth, with a cavity or pocket between them. The affected gum margin may be soft, pale and painful. Food particles can enter the pocket.
Don’t ignore any of these signs, visit your dentist immediately.
Why are my gums receding?
Gum recession has various causes including:
This habit is responsible for a significant number of gum recession cases. What does it mean to brush overzealously?
Overzealous brushing simply entails brushing too hard, too fast, and in the wrong manner. To brush safely, do these:
- Use toothbrushes with soft bristles. Using a hard toothbrush will not remove more stains from your teeth, it will only wear out your enamel and cause gum recession. Soft toothbrushes are not for babies, you also need them! ‘Soft’ doesn’t mean ineffective.
- Change your toothbrush every 3 months, or when you start to notice wear and tear, whichever comes first. Even soft toothbrushes are not safe indefinitely, the softness wears out over time and the bristles then begin to scrape off important structures of your teeth and surrounding tissues.
- Use a good brushing technique
- Be gentle while brushing your teeth; use minimal pressure from your elbow and not your wrist. Hold your toothbrush as close to the free end as possible; the closer your hand is to the brushing end, the more pressure you are likely to exert while brushing.
- Toothbrushes with a smaller head are preferred to bogus ones. The smaller the brush is, the more surfaces of your teeth you are likely to reach.
Cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing
In addition to tobacco being bad for your gum health, it also stains the teeth. People with stained teeth are more prone to buying hard toothbrushes, and brushing with undue force in an attempt to get rid of the stains.
There are different types of gum (periodontal) diseases that recede the gum line. Gum infection is a common one.
Poor oral hygiene
This can predispose to gingivitis and other periodontal diseases which can cause gum recession.
In some cases, gum recession can run in families.
Dental malalignment or malocclusion
When the upper and lower teeth do not come together evenly, certain movements can exert excessive force on the teeth and gums, and increase the risk of receding gums.
Can receding gums be treated?
Unfortunately, receding gums do not naturally grow back on their own. However, it can be treated by a qualified dentist.
The treatment options depend on the cause and severity of the gum recession and they include:
- Antibiotic treatment: Gum infection is a common cause of receding gums. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics for mild gum recession.
- A minor procedure called scaling and root planing may be done for mild to moderate cases.
- Advanced cases may require surgeries like gum grafting or open flap scaling and root planing.
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- Special growth stimulating factors can be placed around the receding gums to stimulate the growth of new gum cells to replace the lost gum.
- Other supportive measures may be employed as necessary e.g psychological support for mental health care; use of braces to correct malocclusion, etc.
How to prevent gum recession
- Do not brush too hard
- Brush your teeth twice a day to maintain optimal oral hygiene
- Use a good brushing technique
- Avoid tobacco or quit smoking
- Do not ignore early signs of gum recession
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year, an expert will notice receding gums before you do.
A word from Healthfacts
Your oral health is as important as every other aspect of your health. Maintain good oral hygiene practices and pay attention to early signs of gum recession. Your smile is beautiful, maintain it.