Looking Long in the Tooth? Gum Recession and Its Effects on Your Teeth

Published:February 8th, 2014

Dental examination uid 1426693Have you noticed you look a little longer in the tooth than you remember? If so then your gums have probably receded. This is the process whereby the gum margins pull away from the tooth, exposing more of the tooth and even the tooth root. It’s a condition that is often associated with old age, but it can affect anyone at any age and it might be due to gum disease.

One of the problems with gum recession is that it can create gaps in between the teeth and the gum margin, and these gaps or pockets are perfect for bacteria in the mouth to build up. When this happens the bacteria can attack the gum tissue as well as the ligaments that support your teeth and even the bone surrounding the teeth. As a result the teeth can become loose and might eventually need extracting.

Receding gums are relatively common, but it is important to visit your dentist to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. There are various things that can be done to help repair the damage caused by gum recession, and to help prevent any further damage.

What Are the Common Causes of Gum Recession?

  • Gum recession can be caused by gum disease or periodontal disease, and some people might be more prone towards developing this condition as it can be genetic. If this is the case then you do need to take extra care of your gums to try to prevent this from happening.
  • Gum recession can also be due to hormonal changes, for instance during pregnancy, puberty and menopause. These hormonal changes increase the sensitivity of the gum tissue towards plaque bacteria, increasing the likelihood of gum disease.
  • Clenching or grinding can put the teeth under pressure, and as a result the gums can begin to recede.
  • Having teeth that don’t bite together correctly can mean some teeth are placed under more pressure than others and as a result of these extra forces the gums can recede.
  • Tongue piercings might look good, but tongue jewellery rubs on the gums, irritating them and wearing away the gum tissue.
  • Brushing your teeth too hard can also wear away the gums, as can using a toothbrush that has exceptionally hard bristles.

If your dentist diagnoses gum disease then they can recommend a treatment plan which will depend on how much the disease has progressed. Sometimes a simple scale and polish might be sufficient, while other times more in-depth cleanings such as scaling and planing will be necessary. If your gums have receded to the point of exposing the tooth roots then there are various surgical procedures that can be used to help repair the damage. It’s possible to have soft tissue grafts to build up the lost gum tissue, and if gum disease has affected the bone then this can be regenerated.

The important thing is to take action and do something, and it’s especially vital if you like to whiten your teeth with home whitening kits. If your gums are receding then you’re likely to find the process of whitening quite uncomfortable, and getting treatment will help your natural teeth to last longer, as there’s little point in having lovely white teeth that are loose.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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