Receding gums occur when your gums wear away or pull back from around the teeth and therefore exposing more of your teeth or tooth’s roots. When gums recede, teeth are at greater risks of tooth decay and sensitivity.

Poor oral health is the primary cause of gum recession. Lack of proper oral hygiene is associated with periodontal diseases and is an alarming sign of an underlying problem. The receding gums is the common symptom in periodontitis that require professional treatment. Among the other causes of receding gums, aggressive tooth brushing is a notable risk factor. Brushing teeth hard or overbrushing can cause injuries to both teeth and gum tissues.

Normally, gums cover 1mm above the cementoenamel junction. Enamel protects the upper part of tooth and cementum covers the lower or root of tooth. The area where the enamel and cementum, which is located at the gum line, is called cementoenamel junction. When gums are shrinking, it leaves cementum or the root of teeth exposed. This situation makes teeth highly susceptible against caries and sensitivity irritants.

Gum recession usually affects people who are older than 30 years of age, but depending on periodontal diseases or due to trauma to gums, receding gums can target younger populations, too.  You should seek treatment before it gets worse. Receding gums is irreversible but with early treatment and prevention, your dentist will take things under control.

What are the symptoms of receding gums?

Receding gums can go unnoticed because it is a gradual process. But once you visit your dentist, they will detect whether you have receding gums or not. Some signs and symptoms are directly linked to receding gums like:

  • Gums have worn away and teeth appear longer than normal.
  • Exposed tooth root which shows that root of tooth or teeth are exposed and teeth sensitivity, root caries and other problems can be felt and detected.
  • Sore, swollen and bleeding gums. Having sore, swollen and bleeding gums are the prominent symptoms of gingivitis, which is the early stage of gum disease. Receding gums may be milder during this stage, so treatments will not only prevent further progression of gum disease but also reduce further risks of the receding gums earlier.    
  • Loose teeth/tooth. One of the symptoms of periodontitis is the receding gums. This serious gum disease, which involves bacterial infection and formation of periodontal pocket, will lead to severe damages to bone and tissues that support the teeth.

What causes receding gums?

One of the most common causes of gum recession lies in poor oral hygiene. Plaque buildups, which adhere to teeth and host bacteria, accumulate on the surface of teeth and allow for overgrowth of bacterial infections. Therefore, teeth should be cleaned daily off any food residue and plaque builds. Daily brushing and flossing will help you remove plaque and prevent tooth decay or gum problems.

Individuals with poor oral heath will put their health at risks of periodontal diseases. Poor oral health is the main risk factor for gum inflammation or gingivitis. If left untreated, the accumulation of plaque buildups on teeth penetrates below the gum line. Your gums will pull apart from teeth and periodontal pocket or gaps that host bacterial infections are formed. This is when periodontitis has occurred and gum recession is just one serious outcome.

Other major risk factors for receding gums include:

Aggressive toothbrushing.

Overbrushing or cleaning your teeth aggressively will leave damages to both teeth and gums. With harsh scrubbing, excessive force or even hard brushes, you will wear down tooth enamel and cause receding gums.

Smoking and tobacco use.

Smoking and using tobacco change the gum quality and has numerous other oral health risks. Tobacco restricts the blood flow to reach gum tissues. Gums don’t receive the nutrients and deteriorate. This combined with plaque biofilm make smokers prone to periodontal diseases and gum recession than nonsmokers.

Abnormal positions of teeth.

Sometimes gums can be thinner than normal due to the misaligned, twisted and irregular teeth’s positions. This makes gums susceptible and receding gum is a likely issue.

Teeth grinding.

Excessive loads and pressures on teeth is another reason for gum recession. People who constantly clench their teeth or have teeth grinding habits during sleep (bruxism) are likely to experience receding gums.

Hormonal changes.

During certain life cycles, like puberty, pregnancy and menopause, human body will go under changes in hormones. These fluctuations impact the gums and the oral health in general. Risks of progressed gingivitis and receding gums is therefore high.

Lip or tongue piercing.

The lip or tongue piercing causes constant rubbing against gum tissue. These oral jewelries result in oral health problems and gum recession is one of the negative outcomes. 

How to prevent gum recession

Good oral hygiene is the best prevention tip which you can do with some simple tasks at home. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. This way, you will remove dental plaque and prevent harmful damages caused by plaque buildups. When plaque is removed daily, there is no opportunity for calculus (calculus is the hardened plaque, also called tartar) deposits to form on teeth.

It is important to bush and floss gently and use a soft-bristled tooth brush to avoid injuries to gums and teeth. Try electric toothbrushes since this makes your teeth cleaning a lot easier. Do not forget to teach your kid to brush gently. Aggressive brushing especially in children causes soft tissues damages due to the delicate gum tissues.

If you are a tooth grinder, your dentist can recommend you to wear a mouthguard (nightguard). It can prevent chances of receding gums caused by trauma of excessive pressures.

For those in need of orthodontics, your dentist may find the cause of receding gums in misaligned and irregular teeth. To fix the position of teeth and jaw discrepancies, your dentist can refer you to an orthodontist for a planned period of orthodontic treatment.

Perhaps, certain lifestyle habits will ensure healthier gums and teeth while keeping up with oral health practices. Limiting sugar intake, quitting smoking and avoiding other tobacco products should be in your to-do list if you want your gums to be secure against bacterial activity or your teeth safe against decay.

Always bear in mind that gum diseases whether in milder gingivitis or a much-progressed periodontitis should be treated immediately. You may not know that you have gum disease, but routine dental check-up is the best way to make sure your mouth and teeth are examined for possible signs and symptoms.

What are the treatments for receding gums?

To treat gum recession, dentists first try to prevent further progression of the diseases and symptoms.

Your dentist will aim to provide strict oral hygiene program as prevention. They can perform deep cleaning which involves a series of plaque removal process. This can be done with scaling teeth to remove plaque or tartar from the surface of teeth and below the gum line. Dentists can do root planing in which the root of the exposed teeth are smoothed out to prevent bacterial growth and reduce plaque accumulation.

In receding gums, root caries and dentin hypersensitivity (teeth sensitivity) are one of the most common complications. This is because of exposed roots, so dentists may recommend, fluoride therapy or fluoride mouthwashes to strengthen teeth and tooth roots that are susceptible to root caries.

Your dentist can restore the damaged teeth with dental bonding, where composite resin material is applied on worn-down teeth. The procedure brings back the beauty and a cosmetic look to your appearance.

Finally, the dentist or periodontist (dentists specialize in treating periodontal diseases) can resort to surgical ways to treat the gum recession. Gum grafting surgery is the treatment of choice. In this procedure, gum tissues either from a donor or from the patients’ own healthier area in the mouth (e.g., roof of the mouth) is taken and surgically inserted in the place of receding gums. This is to replace the lost gum tissues and help the gums to regenerate.

Here are some frequently asked questions around receding gums

Can receding gums cause sensitive teeth?

The answer is yes, receding gum is the leading cause of sensitive teeth.
When gums start to recede, teeth’s roots are exposed. Cementum is thinner layer than enamel which covers the root part of teeth. Overtime, tooth decay wears away cementum and enamel. This leads to the dentin underneath exposed to any stimuli in the mouth. Dentin is the softer part of teeth, including tiny dentinal tubules. Changes in temperatures from cold and hot drinks/foods and bacterial activity are easily transmitted to dental nerves inside the tooth. Therefore, you will feel pain sensations and sharp, shooting sensitivity in your teeth.

Does aging cause the receding gums?

Aging does not directly cause gum recession. The reason that receding gums is prevalent in aging population is because the damage begins to grow and accumulate overtime. Longtime poor oral health, no-daily brushing or improper brushing has led to failure in plaque removal. These conditions begin to impact oral health with much harmful damages in later ages.
Receding gums can be a red flag for something more, gum diseases (gingivitis and periodontitis). The signs and symptoms of these periodontal diseases can be found in younger ages. As you age, the much serious symptoms like receding gums will pop up one by one. It is extremely important to see a dentist and seek dental care in the early phases of gum diseases. The condition not only exacerbates gum recession but also causes more serious damages to bone and tissues that support the teeth in place.

Can receding gums grow back?

No, receding gums will not grow back. Once the gums begin to recede, the damage is irreversible. The goal is to curb and control the gum recession at the first place. The dentist or dental specialist can help gum tissues to regenerate though surgical operations, like gum grafting. Here, the tissue from gums or palate of mouth is grafted onto the receding gum area. 

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