Receding gums is a dental problem in which the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth begins to wear away and expose the root of your teeth. Because this condition puts you at risk for various dental complications, it should be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.
In this guide from Flossy, we will go over everything you need to know about receding gums, which includes its causes, its symptoms, and its treatment options.
Read on to discover how you can protect yourself from this common dental condition.
The gums — also known as gingivae — are tissues in the mouth that surround the base of the teeth. The gums contain many blood vessels, which are located beneath the moist surface known as the mucous membrane. As such, the gums are living tissues that receive a constant supply of oxygen and other nutrients.
The gums are attached to the alveolar bone, which contains small openings known as teeth sockets. Their width varies from person to person, which can be as small as one millimeter to as large as 10 millimeters. When healthy, gums are a salmon pink color.
However, when the size or color of the gums begins to change, it can be an indicator of underlying problems, such as receding gums. In the next section, we’ll explain exactly what this is and why it happens.
When the gum tissue surrounding the teeth pulls back, it can expose more of the tooth’s inner structure — this part of the teeth is called the root. When this happens, the gums are said to be “receding.” This condition is also known as gingival recession.
When the gums recede, they can cause gaps to form between the teeth and the gums. This makes it easy for bacteria to invade and infect the affected area, which can lead to gum disease. If left untreated, gum problems can lead to extreme pain and sensitivity, tooth loss, bad breath, and even chronic health conditions.
However, the problem with even mild gum recession is that it often goes by unrecognized. The main reason for this is that gums recede gradually over a long period of time. In addition, this condition may not present any symptoms, which can make it difficult for the patient to know that something is wrong.
There are various reasons why the gums may recede. The following is an overview of some of the most common causes of receding gums.
If you do not follow a consistent toothbrush and flossing routine, then you may experience a buildup of plaque — a sticky film of bacteria that forms over the teeth and gums. Over time, the plaque may harden, and turn into tartar, a substance that can only be removed by a dental professional. If too much tartar forms around the gums, then they may begin to pull away from the teeth, leading to gum recession.
Follow a consistent dental hygiene whenever you can. Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss daily to avoid issues like a gingivitis, tooth decay, and other issues.
In some cases, accumulation of plaque or tartar can lead to periodontal disease, which is an extreme form of gum disease. This gum infection damages the soft tissue of the gums and — if left untreated — can increase the risk of receding gums. In addition to your oral hygiene, your genetics play a role in how likely you are to develop receding gums.
Even if your oral hygiene is perfect, you may still have some habits that increase your chances of developing receding gums. For instance, aggressive brushing is associated with the wearing away of the enamel, which is the outermost part of your tooth that protects it from external elements. Teeth grinding is another reason why your enamel may wear away.
Smoking leads to a dramatic reduction in blood flow, which limits how much oxygen your gums get. Smoking can also disrupt your body’s natural repair process. These factors make it more likely that your gum tissue will break down.
In addition, if you smoke, your gums will be much less likely to heal following physical trauma. If you engage in aggressive brushing or any other damaging dental habits, then your gums will be much less likely to heal properly than those of a non-smoker.
If you have receding gums, then your gums may be pulling away from the teeth at a slow rate. As such, you may not notice any drastic changes to the appearance of your teeth, which can make it hard to know that something is wrong.
However, receding gums are often accompanied by other symptoms. Here are some that you should look out for:
While the above symptoms may indicate gum recession, they can also have other causes. As such, it is important not to self-diagnose and to seek out a professional consultation if you feel that something is wrong.
To diagnose receding gums, your dentist will use manual instruments, such as a probe. This will allow them to measure how far the gums have moved away from the teeth and how deep the “pockets” — the spaces between the gums and teeth — have become.
A normal “pocket” size is between one to three millimeters. However, if it is larger, then it can be a sign of receding gums. Doing this requires a precise instrument, which is why you cannot diagnose the condition on your own.
Once your dentist establishes that you have receding gums, you will be able to begin treatment. In many cases, your dentist might refer you to a periodontist — a specialist in gum disease.
In the following section, we will go over your treatment options for receding gums.
If your gum recession is mild, then it may be treated with just a deep cleaning procedure.
Your dentist will perform a type of deep cleaning procedure called tooth scaling and root planing, which clears away the bacterial deposits that form around the gum line. Once the bacteria is removed, the root of the teeth will be smoothed out to make it difficult for bacterial deposits to form again.
In more severe forms of gum recession, a deep cleaning may not be enough. This is usually the case with pockets that are too deep — especially if it is accompanied by loss of bone. In this case, you will be required to have surgery to repair the gum recession. In a procedure called gum grafting, tissue from other areas of your gums will be collected and attached to the areas where the gums are receding.
Gum grafting is the oldest technique for repairing gum recession and has a high success rate. However, more modern treatment techniques have been created to address the issue. For instance, the pinhole surgical technique loosens gum tissue, which allows it to be repositioned in its proper place.
Another possible technique is gum grafting. In it, a resin that matches the color of your gums may be applied over the roots of the teeth. This not only protects the teeth but reduces the appearance of receding gums.
In many cases, you will be prescribed oral antibiotics to clear away the infection. This can also be accompanied by an antibiotic oral rinse.
Your dentist will ultimately decide the best course of treatment based on your individual case. Dentists in Flossy’s network use the most advanced techniques for treating receding gums. As such, you can be confident that you’re getting the best treatment.
Once your gums begin to recede, there isn’t much that you can do to treat them at home. Professional treatment is necessary to prevent the gums from receding further and to restore the missing gum tissue.
That said, there are some things that you can do to support your gum health while being treated by a professional. You can apply antiseptic and antimicrobial substances such as coconut oil, salt, and aloe vera to your gums to speed up healing.
You can also make lifestyle changes that reduce your body’s levels of inflammation, such as consuming more omega-3 fatty acids. One study confirms this by showing that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids for three months is enough to significantly reduce inflammation in the gums.
Once your gums begin to shrink, there isn’t anything you can do to regrow them. Unlike the other tissue on your body, your gum tissue does not regenerate on its own. The only option to restore the gum tissue is to have a grafting procedure performed by a dental professional.
If you have receding gums, then your only option is to prevent them from getting worse. Once you get to the root cause of your receding gums and take the proper steps to treat it, your gums will stop receding. You can also follow the above at-home strategies to support your gum health.
If you currently do not have receding gums, then prevention is the best strategy. Knowing what causes receding gums and practicing the proper prevention techniques will allow you to make sure that you do not have to deal with the condition.
The best way to prevent receding gums is to practice proper oral hygiene. If your teeth and gums are healthy, then you will be very unlikely to experience receding gums.
As such, make sure that you are brushing and flossing twice per day. Some other factors to support your oral health include limiting your consumption of sugar, avoiding smoking, and preventing physical trauma to your teeth.
However, even if your oral hygiene routine is ideal, bacteria can still build up over time, which can create deposits of plaque and tartar on your teeth and gums. This increases your chances of various dental conditions, including receding gums. However, seeing your dentist twice per year for dental cleanings will help to prevent this.
To help you keep track of your dental cleanings, create a reminder in your calendar every six months. You can also ask your dentist’s office to remind you when you’re due for a cleaning.
Gum recession is a condition in which the gums begin to pull away from the teeth. It can be caused by anything that excessively damages the gums, such as gum disease, bacterial buildup, or physical trauma.
Once the gums begin to recede, the only thing you can do is to prevent them from getting worse. However, restoring the gum tissue requires professional treatment. The sooner you can get it, the better your chances of recovery.
If you think you may have gum recession, then it’s important to seek immediate treatment. Schedule an appointment with one of Flossy’s dentists to get the best treatment—at a fraction of the cost of other dentists.