Receding Gums | Causes, Treatments and Risks
Understanding Gum Disease
Receding gums, also known as gingival recession, is the eventual exposure of the base and roots of the teeth as the gums pull away from their normal, healthy position. This occurs either because of a loss of gum tissue or the retraction of the gum line from the crown of the teeth. While many perceive it as an adult-hood problem, gum recession can start early on, even in teens.
What are the Causes of Receding Gums?
Gum recession has numerous causes, and the most common cause is pinned to gum disease. Gum disease occurs when bacteria in the mouth, along with foreign matter such as food particles, begins to form plaque. If not removed, this plaque begins to harden. As it does so, it irritates and inflames the gums surrounding the teeth. Once it forms tartar, this creates a haven for bacterial growth. It forms a wedge between teeth and the healthy gums, generating pockets for the bacteria to eat away at healthy tissue. Eventually, the healthy gum tissue erodes away by acids, bacterial waste and toxins. This creates the appearance of receding gums.
Identifying Receding Gums
Unlike other types of gum disease that can be hard to diagnose due to a lack of pain and visible symptoms early on, receding gums are fairly simple to diagnose on visual inspection. As the gums begin to recede, you can see a physical change in the teeth and the amount of surface area. Also, because the protective lining (the gums) pulls away from the root of the teeth, your teeth are likely to be more sensitive to hot and cold as well as touch and pressure.
Receding Gums - Signs and Symptoms
Other Causes of Receding Gums
Gum disease is only one contributing factor with gum recession. You can experience gum recession from a number of other causes including:
- Abnormal tooth positions that result in crowding
- Hereditary issues that produce thin or insufficient gum tissue
- Aggressive brushing with bristled toothbrushes (try a brushless toothbrush for receding gums)
- Inadequate dental care (not brushing or flossing enough)
- Tobacco use
- Eating disorders
- Bruxism, or grinding the teeth
Risks Associated with Receding Gums
The initial diagnosis of receding gums is a sure sign of more serious problems on the rise for your gums. The larger concern however is that receding gums can be a warning sign for other health concerns that are potentially quite serious - and most people would never link them to oral health and gum disease.
The main concern is heart disease and stroke. A study published in “Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology and Endodontology" states that gum disease was associated with a 19% increase in the risk of heart and cardiovascular disease. It’s believed that bacteria, which are en mass when gum disease is present (one cause for gum recession), enters the blood stream and travels throughout the body. This can promote coronary artery disease and the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Treatment for Receding Gums
Treatment for receding gums first requires an understanding of the cause. Once the cause is determined, then a dentist (or appropriate medical professional based on the cause) can recommend a treatment plan. In many cases, a primary cause for inflammation and gum recession turns out to be aggressive brushing or the wrong toothbrush.
To start treatment and improve teeth, most professionals and dentists will recommend an immediate change to a brushless toothbrush. These textured toothbrushes provide a varied surface for removing plaque and cleaning teeth and gums without aggravating or wearing down sensitive gum tissue.
If gum recession is bad enough, a periodontist may recommend gum grafting to restore lost gum tissue.
Helpful Links about Gum Disease
- Healthy Mouth and a Healthier You
What's the best way to get healthy, white teeth? Do you need dental work? WebMD's dentist answers your questions.
- Gum Disease
Gum disease doesn't just happen to people your grandparents' age - it can happen to teens too. Get the details here.
- Gingival graft - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia