Gum tissue and accompanying bone are important components of the human body. Our teeth need something to hold them in place and the gums provide this service through a fascinating blend of vise-like grip and nurturing protection.
Despite its toughness, however, gum tissue does not regenerate like other types of tissue. Think of the way your skin heals after being cut. Gum tissue doesn’t work like that and as such, damaged gums, known as receding gums, don’t grow back to their original state.
Gum disease explained
Gum recession, or periodontal disease, is an infection of the tissue holding your teeth in place. Affected gums wear away, pulling back to expose more of the tooth or further to the tooth’s root. Gaps are then prone to form between the gum and tooth, providing an ideal environment for nasty, disease-causing bacteria to take hold. Left unchecked, that bacteria can severely damage tissue and bone structure surrounding the tooth, cause sore or bleeding gums, chewing difficulties, and in some cases complete tooth loss.
The tricky part is receding gums occur very gradually and most people are unaware of the problem until it has already progressed.
What causes it?
Consistently poor brushing and flossing habits allow bacteria to form plaque and build up on our teeth to harden into tartar. Efficient brushing and flossing helps remove plaque but once tartar is formed, only a professional cleaning does the trick.
Early stages of gum disease come in the form of symptoms such as red or swollen gums, gums that are tender to the touch, bleeding gums, and persistent bad breath.
The most common causes of gum disease include:
We can’t do much about this one, but studies have shown that upwards of 30% of the US population are likely genetically susceptible to gum disease, regardless of their glowing oral care habits.
Grinding or clenching teeth
Grinding or clenching your teeth exerts a great deal of pressure and that force causes the gums to recede.
Brushing too hard
Overzealous brushing or simply brushing the wrong way can cause a tooth’s enamel to gradually wear away, leading to receding gums.
Poor dental care
Infrequent brushing, flossing, and use of mouthwash provides the ideal environment for plaque buildup.
As gums continue to recede, afflicted people may notice several common symptoms including long teeth, exposed roots, and loose teeth. Long teeth is a term associated with a visible “lengthening” of the teeth; in other words, teeth have the appearance of being longer due to receding gums.
Exposed roots are a sure sign of periodontal disease and are often very sensitive and painful. This is typically a result of aggressive brushing with a hard-bristled brush.
You may also notice some teeth becoming loose due to the bacteria under the gums. As the gum’s attachment integrity fails, pockets in the gums form and get deeper.
Treatment and prevention
Even though receding gums won’t grow back, you can still prevent them from receding further and surgical procedures for advanced cases
Mild stages of gum recession can be treated by a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar and smooth over exposed root areas. Antibodies can also be used to kill off any stubborn remaining bacteria.
Advanced gum recession is sometimes insufficient due to excess bone loss and deep gum pockets. In these cases, patients may have to opt for oral surgery.
How can you prevent gum recession in the first place? The best way is to take good care of what you have. Brush and floss at least twice a day and visit your dentist no less than two times a year. If you smoke, stop it. Eat a healthy diet and stay alert to any changes to your mouth and teeth. Using a battery-powered toothbrush also goes a long way toward strong, healthy teeth.
Scaling and planing
If you have or suspect gum disease, go see your dentist. He or she can measure recession and if bacteria are spotted, they will likely recommend a scaling and root planing procedure. This involves scraping tartar from your teeth and gum line with specialized tools to loosen and remove plaque.
Your dentist also might apply an antibacterial gel under the gum line or prescribe an antibiotic mouthwash. This helps remove bacteria and is an effective first step in slowing or even stopping gum recession.
For answers to more questions on periodontal disease, contact Beach City Dental at (714) 790-1662 or beachcitydental.com.