Up-close photo of an oral examination of the gums
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Gum recession (Gingival recession) means the gum tissue surrounding the teeth wearing away or pulling back from the tooth. As a result, people experience painful exposure to the tooth or root. The root means the part of your tooth extending into the bone. Simply put, the root holds your tooth in place. As gum recession progresses, "pockets" or "gaps" form between the tooth and gum line. The gaps allow for the easy buildup of bacteria. In addition, you may experience sensitivity to hot and cold—the painful sensation results from the lack of protective enamel covering the root.

If the root is exposed, it could also begin to decay. As a result, you may experience symptoms such as experience bad breath, swollen gums, red gums, a bad taste in your mouth, or loose teeth. In a recent study, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published the following:

In its more severe form, called periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the tooth, bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or even fall out. Periodontal disease is mainly seen in adults. Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the two biggest threats to dental health. This condition is more common in men than women (56.4% vs. 38.4%), those living below the federal poverty level (65.4%), those with less than a high school education (66.9%), and current smokers (64.2%)

What Causes Gum Recession?

Gum recession is not an issue that you should ignore. Some causes of gum recession are preventable, and some aren't. If you think your gums are receding, you need to make an appointment with your dentist to talk about gum recession treatment. The most common causes of gum recession include:

  • Periodontal Diseases: Gum disease leads to bacterial infections which destroy the tissue and bone, keeping your teeth in place. Depending on the severity, your teeth could begin to shift and even fall out.
  • Age: The tough outer layer of your teeth, known as enamel, can thin out over time due to brushing. That allows a tooth's dentin, the layer just below the enamel, to show. Dentin has a yellowish tinge to it.
  • Genetics: Studies have shown that 30% of the population may be predisposed to gum recession. Receding gums occur despite good dental hygiene for some patients.
  • Aggressive Tooth Brushing: If you brush your teeth too hard, you can wear down your gum tissue. The result makes it easier for plaque to turn into tartar. As a result, the buildup of tartar leads to gum recession.
  • Insufficient Oral Care: Not correctly brushing and flossing your teeth can lead to plaque and tartar buildup.
  • Hormonal Changes: For women, a fluctuation in hormone levels during their lifetime, such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, can make the gums more sensitive and vulnerable to recession.
  • Tobacco Products: You are more likely to have sticky plaque on your teeth from tobacco use. It is harder to remove and can lead to gum recession.
  • Grinding and Clenching Your Teeth: This can put too much force on the teeth and cause gums to recede.

Treatment for Receding Gums

Gum recession treatment depends on the cause of the gum recession. Receding gums are not reversible. But, you can keep it from progressing. For example, if you're using a toothbrush that's hard, you should use a softer brush. Your Periodontist may recommend the following: 1) mouth rinse, 2) dental pick, 3) interdental cleaner. Now you will be able to reach those hard-to-reach areas.

Are you suffering from periodontal disease? You may need to have occasional deep teeth cleaning treatments called scaling and root planing. However, scaling and root planing treats mild gum recession. Your Periodontist cleans tartar and plaque from the surface and roots of your teeth.

If your gum recession is severe, you may need a procedure known as gum grafting. This surgery restores lost gum tissue. Your dentist takes gum tissue from one area of your mouth and puts it in the correct spot. The graft protects the exposed tooth root from bacterial infection. Aesthetically, your gum line and teeth will result in a healthy, natural appearance.

How Do I Prevent My Gums from Receding?

The best way to prevent gum recession treatment is to take good care of your mouth with a consistent oral health routine. Brush and floss your teeth twice each day and see your dentist at least twice a year. If you use tobacco, you should seriously consider quitting; this will help reduce the buildup of plaque and stains. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Always keep an eye on your mouth and make an appointment with your dentist if you notice any changes in your gums that don't seem quite right. If you grind or clench your teeth, make sure to wear a mouthguard when you sleep.

Caring for Your Gums Post-Graft

How you care for receding gums depends primarily on how severe it is and how your Periodontist decides to treat the gum recession. If you have gum graft surgery, your doctor will tell you how to care for your gums after your procedure. You may have a special mouth rinse or may have to change what you eat while your gums are still healing. Since some gum grafts are a type of surgery, the affected area may be tender or sore; it may swell. To help your gums heal after this, you should avoid using tobacco or alcohol and follow the instructions given to you by the dental team. Teeth clenching or grinding can slow down the healing process. So can diet or nutrition problems, and medicines, or other health issues.

For mild cases of gum recession that don't require surgical intervention, you should adopt and follow a good dental hygiene routine. Make sure that you use the right toothbrush. It shouldn't be too hard. Brush and floss twice each day. See your dentist regularly to catch an issue early.

Frequently Asked Questions About Receding Gums

Question: What non-surgical options do I have to stop my gums from receding?
Answer: If your gum recession isn't severe, your Periodontist may recommend the following non-surgical treatments: Scaling, Root Planing, and Antibiotics.

Question: What are the leading surgical treatments for gum recession?
Answer: Flap Surgery or Pocket Reduction Surgery; Soft Tissue Grafts; Bone Grafting, Guided Tissue Regeneration; and Tissue Stimulating Proteins.

Question: What's the difference between a Periodontist and a General Dentist?
Answer: First, a Periodontist is a Dentist. However, Periodontal Specialists diagnose, prevent and treat periodontitis, receding gums, inflammation, tooth loss (dental implants), and other chronic tissue loss of the teeth. Further, a Periodontist completed an additional three (3) years of training after graduating from dental school.

Question: How many people have receding gums?
Answer: According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one (1) out of every two (2) US adults suffers from periodontal disease. That's 47.2% or 64.7 million adults thirty (30) years and older suffering from mild, moderate, to severe periodontal disease, including gum recession.

Question: What are the different types of gum grafting surgery?
Answer: A Periodontist may perform one (1) of three (3) surgeries depending on the severity and complexity of your gum recession. The restorative surgeries are called a Connective Graft, Free Gingival Graft, and a Pedicle Graft.

Question: Does grinding my teeth cause receding gums?
Answer: The medical term for teeth grinding is Bruxism. Grinding your teeth causes many problems like loose teeth, chipped or broken teeth, and gum recession. Bruxism often occurs at night and goes unnoticed because you're asleep. If you are a chronic teeth grinder, don't take it lightly. Schedule an appointment with your dentist today.

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