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Receding Gums Explained: What Causes It And How To Treat It?

By Johanna Kalons

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This article was created after thorough research and has been improved with the assistance of AI technology. Furthermore, our dedicated editorial team has meticulously fact-checked and polished its content for accuracy and clarity.

Gum recession, also known as receding gums, is a prevalent dental condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is just one form of [periodontal disease ]. It happens when more of the tooth root surface is exposed due to a progressive deterioration of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. This can lead to various dental problems, including increased sensitivity, tooth discoloration, and a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease. 

In severe cases, receding gums can even result in tooth loss. Maintaining good oral health and preventing further complications requires a comprehensive understanding of the causes and available treatments for receding gums.

Key takeaways:

Gum recession is a common dental condition where the gum tissue surrounding the teeth wears away, exposing more of the tooth roots. It can lead to tooth sensitivity, discoloration, decay, and even tooth loss if left untreated.
Major causes of receding gums include poor oral hygiene, aggressive brushing, periodontal disease, genetic factors, hormonal changes, tobacco use, and teeth grinding habits. Identifying and addressing the underlying causes is important.
Treatment options for gum recession range from improved oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings to surgical procedures like gum grafting or the pinhole surgical technique. Early intervention is crucial to prevent further gum loss and more invasive treatments.

Several factors can contribute to the development of receding gums. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some of the primary causes include poor oral hygiene, aggressive brushing, periodontal disease, genetic factors, hormonal changes, tobacco use, and teeth grinding or clenching.

Receding Gums

Poor oral hygiene

Inadequate brushing and flossing can lead to the buildup of plaque and tartar, which can irritate and inflame the gum tissue, causing it to recede over time. Plaque, a sticky layer of germs that builds up on teeth over time, can become tartar (calculus) and require expert dental care to remove if regular brushing and flossing are not followed.

Aggressive brushing

Brushing too vigorously or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can erode the gum tissue, leading to recession. It is essential to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle brushing techniques to avoid damaging the delicate gum tissue.

Periodontal disease

Also known as gum disease, this bacterial infection can destroy the bone and gum tissue that support the teeth, resulting in gum recession. Periodontal disease is often caused by poor oral hygiene and is characterized by inflammation and infection of the gums and underlying bone structure.

Genetic factors

Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing gum recession, regardless of their oral hygiene habits. This genetic component can make certain individuals more susceptible to gum disease and subsequent gum recession.

Hormonal changes

Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as during pregnancy or menopause, can increase the risk of gum recession. These hormonal changes can cause the gums to become more sensitive and prone to inflammation, leading to potential gum recession.

Tobacco use

Smoking and other forms of tobacco use can impair the body’s ability to heal and fight infections, contributing to gum recession. Tobacco use also increases the risk of developing periodontal disease, which can further exacerbate gum recession.

Teeth grinding or clenching

The excessive force exerted on the teeth through habits like teeth grinding (bruxism) or clenching can cause the gums to recede over time. This constant pressure and trauma can gradually wear away the gum tissue, exposing the tooth roots.

Recognizing the symptoms of receding gums is crucial for seeking timely treatment and preventing further progression of the condition. Common symptoms include tooth sensitivity, exposed tooth roots, tooth discoloration, gum tenderness or bleeding, and loose teeth in advanced cases.

Tooth Sensitivity

As the gum tissue recedes, it exposes the tooth’s root surface, which is more susceptible to temperature changes and pressure, leading to increased sensitivity. Individuals with receding gums may experience discomfort or pain when consuming hot, cold, or sweet foods and beverages.

Exposed tooth roots

Visible tooth roots or a “longer” appearance of the teeth can indicate gum recession. The exposed root surfaces are usually darker in color compared to the enamel-covered portion of the tooth.

Tooth discoloration

The exposed tooth roots can appear yellow or darker in color, as the root surface is not protected by the enamel that covers the visible portion of the tooth.

Gum tenderness or bleeding

Receding gums may cause discomfort, swelling, or bleeding, especially during brushing or flossing. This is often a sign of inflammation or infection in the gum tissue.

Loose teeth

In advanced cases of receding gums, the supporting bone and gum tissue around the teeth can be significantly compromised, causing the teeth to become loose or shift positions.

As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), receding gums are a common problem, affecting around 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older in the United States. Early detection and treatment are crucial to prevent further progression and potential tooth loss.

Related: What To Eat After Tooth Extraction? Dietary Do’s And Dont’s

Depending on the severity and underlying causes of gum recession, various treatment options are available. These include improved oral hygiene practices, professional dental cleanings, surgical procedures, and lifestyle changes.

Improved oral hygiene

Adopting proper brushing and flossing techniques, along with regular dental cleanings, can help prevent further gum recession and promote gum health. Proper oral hygiene practices remove plaque and tartar buildup, reducing the risk of gum inflammation and recession.

Scaling and root planning

This deep cleaning procedure involves removing plaque and tartar from the tooth surfaces and root areas and smoothing the root surfaces to discourage further buildup. By eliminating the bacterial deposits and creating a clean surface, scaling, and root planing can facilitate gum healing and reattachment.

Gum grafting

In this surgical procedure, healthy gum tissue is taken from another area of the mouth or a donor source and grafted onto the affected area to cover the exposed root surfaces. Gum grafting helps restore the gum tissue and protect the exposed roots, reducing sensitivity and preventing further recession.

Pinhole Surgical Technique

A minimally invasive procedure that involves creating a small hole in the gum tissue and using specialized instruments to gently reposition the gum over the exposed root surfaces. This technique can be effective for treating multiple teeth with gum recession in a single procedure.

Orthodontic treatment

In some cases, realigning the teeth through orthodontic treatment can help redistribute the gum tissue and reduce recession. By correcting misaligned or crowded teeth, the gum tissue can be better supported and less prone to recession.

Soft tissue grafts

These procedures involve using synthetic materials or donated tissue to cover and protect the exposed root surfaces. The grafted material helps restore the lost gum tissue and promote healing, reducing sensitivity and the risk of further recession.

Lifestyle changes

Quitting smoking, managing stress, and addressing teeth-grinding or clenching habits can help prevent further gum recession and promote healing. Smoking cessation and stress reduction can improve the body’s ability to fight infections and heal while addressing bruxism can reduce the excessive forces on the teeth and gums.

As mentioned by the NIH, early treatment of gum recession is essential to prevent further damage and potential tooth loss. Delaying treatment can lead to more extensive and invasive procedures being required to address the condition (https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease/more-info).

Conclusion

Gum recession can have a major effect on general health and dental health. People can seek prompt treatment and take generative steps to prevent or manage this ailment by being aware of the causes and symptoms.

To safeguard the gums and keep a healthy smile, it’s important to practice proper oral hygiene, take care of underlying risk factors, and consult a dentist. Gum recession can be reversed or slowed down in progression, and more serious issues can be avoided, with regular dental check-ups and cleanings and individualized treatment plans. Never forget that maintaining healthy gums and reaching the highest level of dental health requires early intervention and persistent maintenance.

FAQ’s

1. Can receding gums be reversed?

In the early stages, receding gums can sometimes be reversed with good oral hygiene and professional dental treatments. However, once a significant gum recession has occurred, it cannot be fully reversed but can be managed to prevent further recession.

2. How can I regrow my receding gums? 

You cannot literally regrow receded gums, but you can have gum graft surgery to cover exposed tooth roots with grafted gum tissue from another area of your mouth. This protects the roots and can restore some gum coverage.

3. How can I tighten my gums?

Proper oral hygiene, quitting smoking, treating gum disease, and having dental procedures like scaling/root planing can help tighten and reattach receded gums in some cases. Gum grafting may also be recommended.

4. Can coconut oil fix receding gums?

No, coconut oil cannot reverse or regrow receded gums on its own. While coconut oil may have some antibacterial benefits, it does not provide a permanent solution for significant gum recession. Professional dental treatment is required.

References:

Johanna Kalons

Dr. Johanna S. Kalons, is a dedicated and compassionate dentist practicing in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dr. Johanna S. Kalons has built a reputation for delivering exceptional dental care. With a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the prestigious University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, her expertise lies in Oral Appliance Therapy for the treatment of sleep apnea.

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