Ever heard the expression “long in the tooth”? This age old expression references wisdom in older age, is actually a nod to gum recession that occurs in horses as they age. Incidentally, it’s a common misconception that receded gums are a normal sign of aging in human adults, which is false and receding gums should, in fact, never be ignored.
Gum recession is a progressive condition in which the gum tissue withdraws or pulls back away from the teeth. As the gum tissue pulls away, teeth may look noticeably longer and pockets around the teeth will form. Pockets that form around the teeth are grounds for collecting bacteria that causes gum disease. You may also notice a notch near the top of the tooth, detectable if you run your finger along your tooth.
Gum disease is one of the biggest causes of gum recession. Many sufferers may notice symptoms such as inflammation, redness, tenderness or pain, bleeding or pus around gums or between the teeth. As gum disease advances, teeth are more susceptible to decay and loss. Those who suffer chronic diseases like diabetes, HIV/AIDS and those with inflammatory conditions in the body are at a greater risk of developing gum disease, which erodes not only gum tissue but also jaw bone.
Gum recession commonly causes teeth sensitivity, since the recession of the gums leaves the root of the tooth, which contains nerves that are extremely sensitive, uncovered. Discomfort from gum recession can also come in the form of irritation, infection or inflammation depending on the cause. Gum recession can be mitigated with proper steps to address the root of the cause, and intervention from dental professionals can restore the look and function of gum tissue that is lost.
Why do gums recede?
There are several reasons that gums recede, although keep in mind that gum recession is a progressive condition that does not appear overnight. Very common causes of gum recession include brushing too aggressively, smoking and tobacco use, poor oral health, teeth grinding (bruxism), genetics, illnesses such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, periodontal disease, and hormones. Receding gums are most common in adults over age 40, but can affect people of any age. Trauma, force or abrasion to the gums can also cause recession.
Bad hygiene is a very common cause of gum recession. Failing to brush and floss regularly or not performing these tasks well can result in a number of oral health issues, including not only gum recession but cavities, decay, bad breath and buildup of plaque and tartar. Good hygiene, including professional dental cleanings every 6 months, is important for preventing oral health issues before they start.
Brushing your teeth too forcefully can cause the gum line to push back over time. Using a medium or hard tooth brush, pushing too forcefully against the gum line, or using an electric tooth brush with a spinning head can all contribute to gum recession over time. It’s best to choose a soft brush and apply minimal pressure while brushing. Moreover, to get the best clean, brush in gentle circles or figure 8’s across the front, back and sides of the teeth.
Tobacco use and also use of products containing nicotine contributes to necrosis (literal, death) of gum tissue, which will cause gums to withdraw. Smoking cigarettes is also known for causing substantial bone loss in the jaw, and many long-time smokers may suffer lose or lost teeth as a result of receded gum and bone.
Still, one of the biggest causes of receding gums is gum disease.
Gingivitis + stages of gum disease as a cause of recession
Gingivitis is the most common and mild form of periodontal (gum) disease, a destructive condition in the gum tissue that can cause gums to recede. First signs of gingivitis can include puffy or swollen gums, tenderness, and small amounts of blood produced when brushing or flossing. Keep in mind, that gingivitis is 100% preventable, and is reversible if treated properly in its early stages.
Symptoms of gum disease:
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Irritated, sore or painful gum tissue
- Bad breath that won’t resolve
- Bleeding gums
- Pus coming from the gum line or between the teeth
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Pain when brushing, flossing or chewing
- Receded gums
As the gum disease worsens, pockets form around the teeth. These pockets capture food, bacteria and particles that can become infected. As the disease worsens the gums pull back from the teeth. In advanced-stage gum disease pockets grow deeper and require more complex treatment procedures, such as surgery and grafting.
What is Pyria?
Pyria is the technical term for gum disease: including irritation, recession and infection of the gums. Pyria is the result of poor oral hygiene that results in a receded gum line, bad breath, bleeding gums, and the deterioration of the health of gum tissue. This disease is progressive, however is fully-treatable with proper hygiene in its early stages. In more advanced cases of pyria, treatment will vary on a case-by-case basis.
Do receding gums grow back?
The answer to whether gum tissue can regrow is tricky. Bone lost to periodontal disease cannot regenerate. There is limited scientific research to support the assertion that home remedies can really help stimulate regeneration of gum tissue and according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine gum tissue itself cannot grow back. A deep cleaning is a great first step at restoring your dental health by removing plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth, around and on the gum line.
Many forums and home remedy sites have listed at-home treatments such as oil pulling, green tea, baking soda paste and others as a way to naturally preserve and renew gum tissue. The best method for healing receded gums, however, is to stop and minimize the effects of gum recession by treating the cause of the issue early on.
How to fix receding gums
Step one of stopping gum recession is to diagnose and treat the cause of the issue. Catching the problem early can not only spare your gum tissue, but also your teeth!
A deep dental cleaning clears plaque and tartar from around the gum line, and promotes healing. Furthermore, treating inflammation and infection from gum disease will promote healing and better health.
How to treat receding gums:
- Proper dental hygiene: Maintain a dental routine that includes brushing and flossing at least twice a day, and biannual dental visits.
- Deep dental cleaning: Plaque and tartar buildup along the gum line can further advance recession, root planning and scaling removes this buildup.
- Tissue or bone grafting: Regeneration of lost tissue or bone can be completed through a surgical procedure called “Grafting” which is conducted by a periodontist or oral surgeon.
- Wear a night-guard: If gum recession is caused from bruxism (teeth grinding), a night guard will protect both your teeth and gums from the damaging effects of grinding.
- See your dentist ASAP: If you suspect that your gums are receding or that you exhibit a condition that can cause your gums to recede, it is important to make a visit to your dentist as soon as possible.