Receding Gums: Causes & Treatments

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Gum recession, also known as gingival recession, is a progressive condition in which the gums pull back, exposing sensitive tooth roots. This unsightly and sometimes painful problem can lead to tooth loss if not addressed early on. If started promptly, treatment can stop gum recession and simple lifestyle changes can help prevent recurrence.

It is estimated that nearly 90 percent of people aged 65 and older suffer from receding gums in at least one tooth. Before discussing the treatment options for receding gums, it’s important to look at the main causes of this common oral health problem.

What causes gum recession?

There are many factors that can cause gum recession, which leaves teeth more susceptible to decay. According to research, periodontal disease is the number one cause of receding gums.  Other causes include:

  • Genetics: a hereditary disposition to gum recession
  • Brushing too roughly or aggressively
  • Using a hard-bristled toothbrush (soft bristles are dentist-recommended)
  • Lack of oral hygiene (not brushing and flossing regularly)
  • Inflammation of the gum tissue caused by bacterial infections
  • Chronic teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Poor dental work (such as badly fitting dentures or crowns)
  • Traumatic injury to the gum tissue
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Major hormonal fluctuations experienced during pregnancy or menopause
  • Smoking
  • Oral tobacco use
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes

Since gum recession is a slow process that occurs over many months and years, the symptoms may be subtle at first. Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures is one of the first signs of receding gums. As the gingival tissue draws back farther, the tooth or teeth may appear longer than normal, and the gum tissue can also be swollen, pink and tender to the touch. Other possible symptoms of receding gums include bleeding after flossing and brushing and/or discomfort at the gum line.

Treatment for receding gums

Because gum recession can diminish your smile and increase the risk of advanced periodontal disease and tooth loss, it’s important to see a dentist for routine cleanings and check-ups. Depending on the nature and severity of the gum recession, your dentist may recommend one of the following options:

  1. Scaling and Root Planing – A type of non-surgical periodontal therapy, scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning beneath the affected gum line. The treatment is aimed at removing all plaque, tartar and calculus from the teeth and root surfaces to help eliminate toxins and reduce inflammation. Manual devices may be used for this deep cleaning, or a combination of manual and ultrasonic cleaning devices.  A desensitizing toothpaste may be applied before the treatment to reduce any discomfort.
  2. Gum grafting – In cases involving more advanced or widespread gum recession, a gum tissue graft may be the most effective treatment. A flap of healthy tissue is taken from adjacent gum tissue or the roof the mouth and then sutured to the affected area of receding gum line. Once the tissue heals, the soft tissue graft can help achieve a more natural appearance while protecting the tooth root.

Tips for prevention

While gum recession treatments enjoy a high success rate, it’s worth noting that gum tissue will never spontaneously regenerate. There are, however, a few easy steps that can help prevent further recession.

  • Stop tobacco use
  • Practice good oral hygiene and floss daily
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Visit your dentist every 6 months for cleanings
  • Use a soft toothbrush and brush lightly in circular motions
  • Use a plaque-fighting mouth rinse
  • Correct crooked or misaligned teeth for a proper bite
  • Seek treatment for tooth grinding

Gum recession treatment in Long Island

If you have signs of receding gums, Long Island Implant & Cosmetic Dentistry can help you start a treatment plan today! Call our Suffolk County cosmetic dentistry practice at (631) 296-0588 to schedule a free consultation.

Additional Receding Gums Resources:

  1. Colgate, Receding Gums Treatment & Causes, http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/conditions/gum-disease/article/receding-gums-and-treatment-and-causes-0214
  2. WebMD, Receding Gums http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/receding_gums_causes-treatments#1
  3. MedicalNewsToday, Receding Gums: Treatment Options and Causes http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/312992.php

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Ava Lawson

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