Professionals recommend that adults, just as children, should visit a dentist at least once every six months. There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is the chance to spot receding gums and determine if they are a problem. Contrary to popular belief, receding gums are not harmless…but they can be treated and even cured.
Receding Gums: One of Three Stages
Gum disease is an inflammation of the gum line that can eventually erode the jawbone. It appears in three stages which, from least to most severe, are gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis.
Gingivitis – commonly known as receding gums – happens when gum tissue is recessed and lowers its position on the tooth, exposing the roots of the teeth. It’s often painless and, because of this, the second and third stages of gum disease can sneak up on a person. (When you begin to experience sore gums, or worse yet, swollen, red, tender or bleeding gums, loose teeth and/or visible pus surrounding the teeth and gums, you’ve probably passed the “gum recession” point.)
What Causes Gum Recession?
- Overly aggressive brushing or flossing. Yes, brushing too hard is possible. Always use a toothbrush that is labeled “soft.” Be gentle on your teeth, and remember that taking care of them isn’t supposed to hurt.
- Genetics. Like the rest of your body, your gums’ characteristics are determined by your genetics. If receding gums run in your family, be aware of it, honor this important heads-up from Mother Nature, and let your dentist know of your inherited situation.
- Abnormal tooth positioning. If your teeth are not in alignment with one another, gum recession is more likely.
- Grinding your teeth. Whether you do it when you’re awake or sleeping, teeth grinding can cause a number of dental problems, far beyond just gum issues. Again, keep your dentist informed and adhere to his or her recommendation for a mouth guard or one of several other options.
- Trauma to gums. The receding of gum tissue may happen due to a traumatic injury. And just because this was a cause that was totally out of your hands, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address it – first discussing it with your dentist. Remember: Such an injury doesn’t always heal itself.
- Poor oral health. This is the most common cause of receding gums. (If you fit into this category, you know who you are and don’t be shy about asking a dentist for help!)
As you ponder the possible causes of receding gums and think, “could I really have a form of gum disease?” don’t feel bad. Yes, the word “disease” can be scary, but the truth is that gum disease is quite common. Recent research published in the Journal of Dental Research states that almost half of 30-year-olds and almost three-quarters 70% of 65-year-olds have reached the periodontitis stage (stage two.)
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You May Feel Gum Recession Before You See It
Gum recession might occur very slowly, sometimes over a period of years. In fact, the first sign of gum recession is often tooth sensitivity or sore gums. Don’t ignore the pain, thinking it’s temporary; even the best home dental hygiene won’t correct this problem. The other way to detect receding gums is by noticing that your teeth appear longer or the spaces in between them appear bigger at the base. Whether you feel or see the onset of gum recession, it’s best to contact a dental professional as soon as possible.
Healthy Gums Are A Team Effort
There are things you can do on a regular basis to keep your gums healthy; steps you have known since childhood. Brushing twice a day, flossing, and keeping up with dental cleanings performed by a dental professional (annually, at least) are usually all that is needed to keep gums from receding from the teeth.
For some, though, it’s not that simple, thanks to some of the other reasons already mentioned. First, you should determine what factors are contributing to the recession, so they can be lessened or, if possible, eliminated. For instance, you can straighten crooked teeth, curb tobacco use, and practice better oral hygiene. (By this point, your dentist should already be involved.) Once these factors are addressed, different treatments can be used by your dental professional to enhance and restore the appearance of your gums. Those treatments include:
- Deep Cleaning. Your dentist will use special tools in order to remove the plaque and tartar buildup on the roots where the gums are receding, a procedure known as root planing.
- Gum Grafting. This involves taking the patient’s own healthy gum tissue from the roof of the mouth or using a gum grafting material to replace the missing gum tissue. Your dentist may recommend you see a periodontist.
- Regeneration. In severe cases of gum recession, the bone may be destroyed. Recent advances in dentistry allow the periodontist to conduct a surgical procedure where a regenerative material is placed in the area of bone loss to help regenerate the bone and tissue. The gum tissue is then secured in that area where one or more teeth may have been involved.
Start Preventing Gum Recession Now
When it comes to spotting gum recession before it becomes too severe, the most important thing is to be aware. Early detection is the key to treating any disease. Most of us have learned to treat gum recession by using fluorides, desensitizing pastes, and gels. However, these applications only manage the symptoms. To address the problem, it’s best to visit a Happy Tooth professional at a location nearest you.