How to Prevent a Receding Gum Line
Most patients don’t think about receding gums until it’s too late. The recession process happens gradually over time and the first symptoms are usually what sparks interest in correcting the problem. But you can protect your smile. With some simple preventative measures, you can help maintain full, healthy gingivae.
- Brush and floss your teeth daily.
- Avoid hard brushing and over brushing.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a healthy diet.
Read on to find out more on gum recession, what causes it and how it can be prevented.
What is Gum Recession?
The dense, pink tissues inside your mouth which form the base of your teeth are called the gingivae, or gums. Healthy gum tissue supports and protects the roots of your teeth. Gum recession is when the tissues wear away or retract over time. A receding gum line puts your teeth at risk by gradually exposing the roots. This leaves them unprotected from plaque and bacteria. Eventually, periodontal pockets develop between teeth and the gum line creating a place for bacteria to thrive. Then, this attacks the teeth and causes decay.
What are the Signs of a Receding Gum Line?
Receding gums is a common problem, but most people don’t worry about prevention. Recession happens slowly and the first sings are usually what bring patients to seek treatment. These include:
- Tooth sensitivity,
- Teeth that appear to be longer,
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing,
- Red, irritated gums,
- Pain around the gum line,
- Exposed tooth roots,
- Loose teeth.
If you suspect that this is affecting you, talk to your dentist right away. Treatment can successfully repair the gum tissue and keep the problem from getting worse. Permeant tooth damage is preventable.
What Causes Gums to Recede?
Changes to the gum tissue are caused or worsened by multiple factors.
Poor Oral Hygiene
It’s important to strike the right balance with oral hygiene to protect your gums. On one hand, regular brushing, flossing and dental cleanings are fundamental. This is because plaque and tartar buildup are a leading cause of recession. On the other hand, brushing and flossing too often or too harshly can damage sensitive oral tissues. Overly aggressive oral hygiene habits wear the gums down over time.
For some patients gum recession is caused by inflammation of the tissues. Gingivitis is the term for plaque that collects on the surface of the tooth and leads to red, inflamed, and bleeding gums. Regular dental cleanings help prevent this early stage of gum disease.
If gingivitis goes untreated, it will develop into full-blown gum disease. Periodontitis results in pockets forming between the gums and teeth which make them more prone to decay. In addition to receding gums, it also leads to the loss of connective fibers and bone around the roots. Treating periodontal disease will also decrease your risk for other health problems.
Smoking & Tobacco Use
Over time, tobacco creates a sticky plaque buildup which is difficult to clean away. This can lead to a receding gum line. As a dentist, I cannot recommend enough the importance of quitting smoking in maintaining a healthy smile.
Other Risk Factors
- Hereditary predisposition,
- Being over the age of 65,
- Lip and tongue piercings,
- Bad alignment of the teeth,
- Teeth grinding,
- Jaw clenching,
- Hormonal changes – such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
How Can Receding Gums be Treated?
If your dentist says your gums are showing signs of receding, the problem can be treated and even reversed. With early intervention, it’s possible to prevent any permanent damage to your smile. You may be referred to a periodontist for regular checkups as a part of the treatment plan. Recession caused by misalignment, jaw clenching or grinding may require addressing those underlying problems.
For patients with early signs of gum recession, we often recommend switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush. Your hygienist should also give you some tips on the proper brushing technique.
The dentists can use deep cleaning methods to remove plaque and tartar on the teeth and below the gum line. Patients may also be prescribed a round of antibiotics to help fight any bacteria or infection.
For more advanced gum recession, there are a few surgical solutions. These include open flap scaling, root planing, bone regeneration and soft tissue grafts.