Gum recession is the process in which the margin of the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away, or pulls back, exposing more of the tooth, or the tooth’s root. When gum recession occurs, “pockets,” or gaps, form between the teeth and gum line, making it easy for disease-causing bacteria to build up. If left untreated, the supporting tissue and bone structures of the teeth can be severely damaged, and may ultimately result in tooth loss.
Gum recession is a common dental problem. Most people don’t know they have gum recession because it occurs gradually. The first sign of gum recession is usually tooth sensitivity, or you may notice a tooth looks longer than normal. Typically, a notch can be felt near the gum line.
Gum recession is not something you want to ignore. If you think your gums are receding, make an appointment with your dentist. There are treatments that can repair the gum and prevent further damage
Why Do Gums Recede?
There are a number of factors that can cause your gums to recede, including:
These are bacterial gum infections that destroy gum tissue and supporting bone that hold your teeth in place. Gum disease is the main cause of gum recession.
Some people may be more susceptible to gum disease. In fact, studies show that 30% of the population may be predisposed to gum disease, regardless of how well they care for their teeth.
Aggressive tooth brushing
If you brush your teeth too hard or the wrong way, it can cause the enamel on your teeth to wear away and your gums to recede.
Insufficient dental care
Inadequate brushing, flossing, and rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash makes it easy for plaque to turn into calculus (tartar) — a hard substance that builds on and between your teeth and can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning. It can lead to gum recession.
Fluctuations in female hormone levels during a woman’s lifetime, such as in puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, can make gums more sensitive and more vulnerable to gum recession.
Receding gums can cause teeth to feel sensitive to cold and heat. Many people with receding gums may have no concerns about them early on and might not be aware that their gums are receding.
However, when people have receding gums, they may experience the following:
- concerns about changing appearance, as the tooth appears longer and the space between teeth increases
- fear of losing teeth
- sensitivity to cold and heat due to exposed tooth roots
Most importantly, receding gums can be a symptom of underlying dental problems, including gum disease, and can increase the risk of tooth decay and tooth loss. They can also lead to bad breath and bleeding gums.
Complications of receding gums
Periodontal diseases such as receding gums are responsible for about 70 percent of adult tooth loss. When there is not enough gum tissue to hold tooth roots in place, the teeth are vulnerable to falling out. In some instances, multiple loose teeth are removed by the dentist before they fall out.
Advanced cases of receding gums will likely require surgery to prevent further damage.
Receding gums and other forms of periodontal disease are diagnosed by a dentist. A physical examination can indicate issues. A probe may also be used to measure gum pockets. A probe is a process that uses a small, painless ruler. Normal pocket sizes range between 1 to 3 millimeters. Anything larger is a sign of gum disease.
A diagnosis of receding gums may warrant a referral to a periodontist.
A periodontist can determine the best course of treatment to save gum tissues and your teeth. First, if an infection is found in the gums, antibiotics may be prescribed.
Other medications may also be used to treat the underlying problem that is causing gum recession. Options include:
- topical antibiotic gel
- antiseptic chips
- antimicrobial mouthwash
- enzyme suppressants
Surgery may be used in the worst cases of receding gums. There are generally two options: flap surgery and grafting.
Flap surgery is a deep tissue cleaning used if other treatments fail. It gets rid of bacteria and tartar buildup within the gums. In order to perform this surgery, a periodontist lifts up the gums and then puts them back in place when the procedure is over. Sometimes the teeth appear even longer after flap surgery because the gums fit more closely around them.
For severely recessed gums the best option may be oral surgery and tissue grafts. This is usually performed by a periodontist in the office and you can go home the same day. It is a common procedure and fairly simple.
While there are different methods to perform a gum graft it usually involves the removal of tissue from the roof of your mouth which is then stitched to your gums over the area of recession. Less commonly tissue from a tissue bank is used.
You will likely have stitches in one or two areas of your mouth. Once the area heals a normal appearance of the gum line is achieved and the root is successfully covered and protected.
Another option is removable veneers that match your gums. These can be made from many different materials, including porcelain and can restore the appearance of your teeth and gum line. White porcelain is commonly used, but pink or reddish colored resins or ceramics that match your gums can also be used depending on what might look best in your specific case. It can cover the tooth partially or fully. These are considered a temporary option.
Other Treatment options
For people who do need treatment, several options are available:
- Desensitizing agents, varnishes, and dentin bonding agents: These products aim to reduce the sensitivity of the exposed tooth root. Desensitizing agents treat the nerve symptoms and help preserve oral hygiene by easing the brushing of sensitive teeth.
- Composite restoration: A dentist uses tooth-colored composite resins to cover the surface of the root. They can also close the black gaps between teeth.
- Pink porcelain or composite: This material is the same pink color of the gums and can be applied to fill the gaps where the gums have receded.
- Orthodontics: These include treatments that slowly move the position of the teeth over a long period. This repositioning can correct the gum margin and make it easier to keep the teeth clean.
You may need to refrain from eating for a period of time before your surgery to avoid complications associated with these medications.
Eating cold food and fluids will help to reduce pain and inflammation during your recovery. You may also need to stick to a soft diet for a little while and avoid foods that are hard, acidic, or could be irritating.
Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed after this surgery. If so, make sure you take them exactly as your doctor tells you for the entire length of time prescribed.
You may also need to avoid brushing and flossing at the surgical site until it heals. Sometimes a special mouthwash is prescribed to help with your oral hygiene and prevent plaque buildup while you are unable to brush and floss as you normally would.
Natural Remedies for Receding Gums
There are several natural remedies for treating receding gums. However, you should always consult with your dentist to choose the most suitable solution for you.
Here are some natural remedies to reverse receding gums:
Oil pulling can reduce bacteria and plaque buildup that lead to receding gums. Take 2 tablespoons of oil in your mouth and swish it for 20 minutes. After spitting the oil, you should rinse your mouth with warm salt-water and brush your teeth.
Aloe Vera is effective in promoting dental health. Injecting Aloe Vera gel into inflamed gums can improve your condition.
Drinking green tea can prevent gum diseases and promote healthy gums and teeth. Drink one or two cups of green tea every day.
You can get rid of inflamed gums by rinsing your mouth with a saltwater solution. Repeat this thrice a day.
Septilin is available in both syrup and tablet form. Taking Septilin will improve the outcome of your periodontal treatment. Take dosages as prescribed by your dentist.
The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric gel can help prevent plaque formation and gingivitis that lead to receding gums.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Eat foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Take 300 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids daily to reduce gum inflammation and improve gum-to-tooth attachment.
Rinse your mouth with hydrogen peroxide and water solution. This will help to treat receding gums. Repeat this twice or thrice a week.
Tea Tree Oil
The source of the European Journal of Dentistry reveals that tea tree oil is effective against the growth of pathogens in the mouth.
Brushing and Flossing
Gently brushing your teeth and flossing twice a day can promote healthy gums and teeth.
Some of the causes of gingival recession are preventable. The most obvious, preventable cause is brushing the teeth too harshly or using a hard-bristled toothbrush. Instead, people should use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid over brushing, applying gentle strokes.
Plaque buildup and tartar can lead to periodontal disease, so maintaining good oral hygiene can also help prevent receding gums. People who have concerns about their teeth or receding gums should visit their dentist to discuss their worries.