Your teeth are amazingly clean. You do everything right to keep them clean. OR SO YOU THINK! Your gums have receded and are exposing the sensitive root area along the gumline. You may not have gum disease but YOU COULD HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM.
In this article you will learn all about receding of gums- symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention. You need to know why this condition is just as alarming as gum disease is. I am a dental hygienist and see more patients daily with this issue than any other issue.
I want to inform everyone about receding of gums so you can deal with this condition as soon as possible.
What Does It Mean To Have Receding of Gums?
Receding of gums is also known as gingival recession or gum recession. Basically what this means is exactly what it sounds like. Your gums have receded (or shrunk away) from your tooth. This exposes the sensitive and cavity prone root area of the tooth.
Wikipedia describes it as “the exposure in the roots of the teeth caused by a loss of gum tissue and/or retraction of the gingival margin from the crown of the teeth.”
This is a common problem for many people and may or may not be related to gum disease. I will explain more about this shortly.
What Are The Symptoms of Receding Gums?
- Sensitive teeth to temperature– Your teeth have become bothered by temperature changes. These include extreme hot or cold foods and drinks. This could also include breathing in cold air.
- Sensitive teeth to touch– You get a sharp shooting “zing” or sensation of pain when touching your teeth along the gumline when brushing. Both of these sensitivities are due to the exposed dentin of the root. The root has tiny tubules that lead to the nerve of the tooth. When the root is exposed, these tubules transmit the sensitivity directly to the nerve of the tooth.
- Noticeable darkness or yellowing color along gums– The teeth appear darker along the gumline when the root is showing. This is because the root portion is covered in a material called cementum which is much darker than the white crown of the tooth.
- Notches or grooves worn along gumline– Wear facets or grooves can be etched into the teeth from overbrushing causing the gumline to recede.
- Teeth look longer– Your teeth will look longer if the roots are visible and exposed. This may give you the appearance of being “long in the tooth”.
- Teeth are loose– Mobility of teeth occurs because there is a loss of attachment holding the teeth in place.
- More space between teeth– When gums pull away from the teeth it appears as if there is more room between them.
- Gum Disease– You may notice red, puffy, swollen gums that bleed easily if gum recession involves gum disease.
Causes of Receding Gums
Now you know what gum recession looks like but what caused it in the first place? You will be shocked to know that more often than not, gum recession is caused by overbrushing. Yes, that is right, you are more likely to have receding gums if you are an aggressive brusher or someone who over brushes their teeth than someone who has poor gum health due to lack of good brushing habits.
How can this be? The gumline is a very delicate area and it truly does not take much pressure or aggressiveness to remove the soft, sticky bacterial plaque hiding underneath and along the gumline. The gumline is the most common area for disease causing plaque to hide so it is important to thoroughly brush this area.
However, most people apply way too much pressure with their toothbrush and maintain a scrubbing type of motion when doing so. This will ultimately cause the gumline to pull away from the tooth exposing the sensitive root area. Using too stiff of a bristle on your toothbrush will cause the gums to prematurely recede. Always stick with the softest bristled brush available (ideally an extra soft).
Using an electric toothbrush will greatly reduce the progression of recession and I will discuss the best options shortly. Another very common cause of gum recession is from teeth that are crooked or misaligned. The Dental Press Journal of Orthodontics explains why gingival recession occurs because of this.
When teeth are not correctly positioned in the jawbone, gingival recession is more likely due to lack of supporting jaw bone. When you clench or grind your teeth, you are more likely to form V-shaped recessed areas along the gumline. These areas are known as abfractions.
When you clench or grind your teeth at night, you are placing excessive and dangerous force on your teeth and their supporting structures in the jaw. Grinding your teeth can cause the tooth structure along the gumline to chip away due to the excessive force of the clenching and grinding motion. This, in turn, will cause the gumline to slowly pull away from the teeth exposing the underlying root area. It is important to prevent abfraction areas along the gumline from occurring in the first place. I will discuss how to prevent receding gums due to abfractions in the prevention section of this article.
Gums can also recede due to lack of good home care. With poor plaque control, gum disease can occur. With the build up of plaque and tartar along the gumline, the gums will have a natural tendency to shrink away from the tooth. The gum is designed to fit like a collar around the tooth. With gum disease, spaces called pockets form around the tooth structure. This causes a progressing loss of attachment of the gum to the tooth.
There are other factors that can cause gums to recede as well. These include piercings such as lip rings or tongue rings. Local irritants such as chewing tobacco will also cause the gums to recede away from the tooth. Hereditary factors also come into play. Some people are born with weaker gum tissue and are prone to this situation occurring.
Treatment for Receding Gums
If the underlying cause of recession of gums is not treated, it is possible to lose your teeth if too much recession occurs. Procedures carried out by a specialist called a periodontist can successfully treat areas of excessive recession.
It is not always necessary to have treatment for receding gums. Depending on the severity of your case, it may be fine to monitor these areas for changes and symptoms in the future. After treating the underlying causes, it may be enough to watch these areas without having to correct the amount of recession that has occurred.
Oftentimes, being aware of these areas is all that is needed so that further recession does not occur. If you have had any areas of recession of your gums, you are more prone to further damage in the future. That is why it is important to read the following section on prevention of receding gums.
If the amount of recession is minor, you can treat areas of sensitivity by using a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. These products are very effective at blocking the tubules on the root of the tooth that lead to the nerve.
The product below uses the latest technology to give you relief in as little as 3 days. You can order it from Amazon.
The active ingredient in sensitive toothpaste will fill in these tiny openings on the root so the sensation of pain is not felt. Using a fluoride rinse or a high fluoride toothpaste will also help to desensitize areas of recession in much the same way.
If the amount of root exposure and loss of attachment is severe, it warrants a visit to the periodontist. You will be given a referral from your general dentist to this specialist. The periodontist will discuss all your options with you on how to treat your condition.
A soft tissue graft is most commonly done to repair the area. This is where a piece of tissue from another part of your mouth (usually the roof of your mouth) is removed and repositioned in the area of recession to cover the exposed root.
There is another common treatment procedure that is gaining popularity these days. This is called the pinhole surgical technique. This procedure is also done by a periodontist and involves placing a small (pinhole size) hole in your gums.
Specially designed instruments will loosen and guide your tissue over the receded part of the tooth. This method is becoming popular because it does not require cutting or stitches and healing time is greatly reduced. Learn more about the pinhole surgery technique here. This technique is minimally invasive and there is a decrease in postoperative pain and complications compared with the traditional soft tissue graft method.
You should have the discussion with your dentist which procedure may be right for you. Like I mentioned earlier, it may be enough to monitor your progression without having to have a corrective procedure done. This would mean you would need to prevent the underlying cause of the recession in the first place. Treating the underlying cause of recession brings us to our next section….
Prevention of Receding Gums
If the cause of your receding gums is because of clenching and grinding, you will need to invest in a night guard or mouth guard. This will prevent abfractions (“V” shaped notches in your gumline exposing the root) from occurring along the gumline.
A night guard will help to keep your teeth slightly separated at night when you may be subconsciously clenching and grinding your teeth.
You can purchase a night guard over the counter at your local drugstore or have a custom-made mouth guard made at your dental office.
Another effective and affordable option would be to purchase one online that can be custom fit by sending in impressions sent to you from the company. A custom fit mouth guard ordered online is made from impressions and will give you the best protection.
If your receding gums are caused from overbrushing or too much pressure when brushing, your dentist will advise you to invest in an electric toothbrush. It is wise to purchase one with a built in timer which makes it easy to brush for the dentist recommended two minutes. Another feature which will help prevent recession, is the built in pressure sensor. This alerts you if you are using too much force.
Gentle pressure is all that is necessary to remove the soft sticky bacterial plaque and food debris from your teeth. Make sure to look for the ADA seal of acceptance when purchasing an electric toothbrush. You can read this article on electric toothbrushes for your best options.
Another way to prevent recession of the gumline is to prevent gum disease. By keeping your teeth and gums as clean as possible you will be improving their health. This reduces the chance that bacterial plaque will cause destruction of your gums.
Learn about gum disease and ways to prevent it in the article: “Gum Disease and Treatment- You Have It Now What?”
An oral irrigator can be a wise investment that will help prevent gum disease. It will help you remove twice as much bacterial plaque from between your teeth than flossing can.
Final Thoughts on Receding of Gums
You now know everything you need to know about receding of gums. This includes symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention. Not everyone will need treatment for their receding gums. If you have receding gums, it is advised that you visit your dentist for an evaluation.
You and your dental professional can discuss what treatment, if any will be necessary. Following the information in this article will help manage and prevent further recession. You need to know that if you have receding gums, you are not alone. However, you should not ignore this condition. It can progress to a point where surgery is your only alternative.
Here’s to you and your healthy smile! Please feel free to leave a comment or question below and I would be happy to respond.
The information that I provide on my website is not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Care and investigation should always be sought from an appropriate health care provider. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be one. I have created this site as a way to share information and experiences.