Gingival Recession or Receding Gums

Gingival recession is the gum disease where the gum tissue margins which surround the teeth are pulled back and worn away, exposing the tooth’s root. Gingival recession or receding gums is one of the primary signs of gum disease. When this gum condition develops, gaps or pockets are formed between the teeth and gum line, paving an easier way for bacterial build up. If this condition is left untreated, the tissues and jaw bones can be seriously damaged, leading to tooth loss.

Receding gums is a common dental disorder and many people cannot identify they are having gum recession as this occurs slowly. In the initial stage, tooth sensitivity develops or you can notice one teeth looking longer than normal. You can feel a notch near the gum line.

Causes of Gingival Recession

There are several factors responsible for causing gingival recession or receding gums. They are:

Periodontal Diseases – These are gum infections caused by bacteria, which damage the gum tissue and bone that hold teeth in position. This is the main cause of receding gums.

Genes – Research has showed that about 30% of population develops gum disease, regardless how well they take care for teeth.

Vigorous brushing – Brushing your teeth very hardly or in a wrong way can wear away the teeth enamel, leading to gum recession.

Improper dental care – Improper brushing and flossing techniques makes it easy for plaque to turn into tartar, a hard substance that can be only removed by professional  dental cleaning, causing gum recession.

Changes in hormone levels – Changes in estrogen levels in women during puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause can turn gums highly sensitive and susceptible for gum recession.

Tobacco products – Tobacco users are at higher risk to develop plaque that causes gum recession.

Teeth grinding and clenching – These activities, generally observed in condition called bruxism, put immense force on the teeth causing gum recession.

Misaligned bites and crooked teeth – When teeth are not aligned and positioned properly, excess force need to be placed on the gums and jaw bone, causing gums to recede.

Tongue or lip piercing – Jewelry irritates and rubs the gums to an extent that they get worn away.

Treatment for Gingival Recession or Receding Gums

The primary treatment for gum recession aims at eliminating the sole causes responsible for the condition. Practicing good oral hygiene that includes proper brushing and flossing techniques are usually enough to provide natural cure and reverse receding gums in initial stages. When the condition turns severe and cannot be reversed, further treatment is required. It can be either non-surgical or surgical depending on the cause and severity of receding gums.

Non-surgical Treatments for Gingival Recession

  • Desensitizing toothpaste – There are various toothpastes that protect against tooth sensitivity. They contain either sodium chloride or potassium salts which block the pain stimuli and protect gums.
  • Desensitizing agents – Fluoride pastes, resins and other available desensitizing agents can be applied directly on the areas of the teeth and roots. This helps to provide immediate relief from pain.
  • Tooth scaling and root planning – This type of professional deep cleaning of the teeth helps to treat gum conditions and prevents gum recession.
  • Correcting the malocclusion and treating tooth grinding and clenching, both the factors which are responsible for gum recession.

Surgical Treatments for Gingival Recession

The following surgical procedures are used to treat receding gums.

Pocket depth reduction – In this procedure, the affected gum tissue is folded back, harmful bacteria are removed from the pockets and gum tissue is placed over the tooth root. This reduces the pocket size or eliminates the pockets.

Regeneration – If the jaw bone is damaged as a result of receding gums, then this regeneration procedure is recommended to regenerate the damaged bone and gum tissue. A graft tissue, membrane or a tissue stimulating protein is applied and then left to regenerate naturally so as to cover the empty root area.

Soft tissue graft – This procedure is also known as gum graft surgery which covers the exposed root area. In this procedure, a flap of skin along with the tissue underneath is cut at the palate (roof of the mouth). This flap tissue is stitched to the damaged area around the roots.

Care / Prevention of Gingival Recession

Receding gums can be easily prevented by good oral hygiene habits. Brush twice a day, floss everyday and go for professional teeth cleaning twice a year. When you happen to experience gum recession, pay a frequent visit to your dentist. Choose always a soft bristled brush and avoid vigorous brushing. Other preventive ways of receding gums include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Monitoring changes that occur inside the mouth