What You Should Know About Receding Gums

Dr. Reza Written by Dr. Reza Khazaie

Receding Gums and Receding Gum Treatment

Gum recession is an all-to-common dental condition that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. It is particularly common amongst those 40 and older and is often considered just another visible sign of aging. Like a receding hairline and wrinkling skin, gum recession is very much a result of time taking its toll on the body. Constant daily wear and tear, and overly aggressive tooth brushing over many years will eventually cause gums to retreat or pull back, revealing and exposing previously covered parts of a tooth and a tooth’s roots.

While general aging cannot be avoided, with the right therapy routine, receding gums can be halted and even reversed. Modern dental treatments and restorative therapies combined with healthy dental hygiene routines can stop gums from disappearing.

“Untreated gum recession will eventually result in edentulism or tooth loss.”

What are receding gums?

Gum recession is a gradual process in which gum tissues recede or disappear over time. Receding gums is characterized by a reduction in gum tissues as the line of tissue that surrounds the teeth pulls back. As gums recede, new portions of the teeth are revealed and often exposed to bacteria, erosion, and general wear and tear. Over time, receding gums will eventually expose a tooth’s roots. They can, if left untreated, allow pockets of debris, microbes, and bacterial rot to form, leading to damage and destruction of teeth, gums, and underlying bone structures.

Untreated gum recession will eventually result in edentulism or tooth loss. If you notice or suspect that your gums are receding, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with your dentist.

Causes for receding gums

There are a variety of factors, both environmental and genetic, as well as personal choices that can contribute to gum recession. Some factors, such as brushing aggressively, can be controlled and amended while others, such as a genetic predisposition to periodontal disease, can be controlled but not entirely rectified.

One of the most prominent causes of gum recession in adults is neglecting proper dental hygiene. Not adequately or properly cleaning one’s teeth can lead to periodontitis or gum disease.

Gum disease is the primary cause of gum recession. Food debris, mainly food caught at the gum line, can fuel bacteria that destroy soft tissues. As the gum recession progresses, hard-to-clean pockets can trap even more debris and fuel even more bacteria growth. That’s why catching and treating gum recession early is essential. Or, better yet, by maintaining proper dental hygiene, gum disease can be prevented before it has a chance to lead to gum recession.

A lack of proper dental hygiene is just one factor that can lead to gum recession. Other factors include diet, a genetic predisposition for periodontal disease, overly aggressive tooth brushing, hormonal fluctuations, tobacco, alcohol, grinding teeth or bruxism, and malocclusion.

8 Most Common Reasons for Receding Gums

1. Poor dental hygiene
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Good dental hygiene is essential for preventing not only gum recession but nearly all dental diseases and ailments.

Regular brushing and flossing, as well as routine dental exams and teeth cleanings, remove food debris and bacteria buildup eliminating the primary vector by which the teeth and gums are harmed. When dental hygiene is neglected, bacteria will eventually destroy soft tissues and cause periodontal disease and gum recession.

2. Sugar and carbohydrate-rich diet
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A proper diet plays a critical role in every aspect of human health including the teeth. What you eat significantly affects your mouth and teeth for obvious reasons. Acidic beverages will erode tooth enamel. Chewing on hard candies can crack or fracture your teeth.

Eating too much sugar and simple carbohydrates can lead to gum disease and, eventually, contribute to receding gums. Refined sugars and simple carbs are like rocket fuel for tissue-destroying oral bacteria. When this bacterial fuel becomes trapped in the gums, bacteria will rapidly grow and spread in and on the gums causing damage and destruction.

3. Unlucky genes
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Like a receding hairline, sometimes even those with impeccable dental hygiene will suffer from gum recession. This is no fault of theirs other than being born with unfortunate genetic makeup.

Some people are naturally born with gums that are prone to infection and diseases. For these unlucky individuals, the best course of action is to meticulously maintain perfect dental hygiene while visiting the dentist for regular dental cleanings and checkups.

4. Toothbrush abrasion
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While a toothbrush can be your mouth’s best friend, when used incorrectly, a toothbrush can actually damage the soft tissues of the mouth and cause gum recession. Too much aggressive brushing can actually scrape away sensitive soft tissues. Remember, a toothbrush is merely a tool for removing soft plaque and food debris.

The bristles of a toothbrush are designed to help reach hard-to-access areas around and in between teeth. Toothbrushes are not intended to “scrub” teeth clean. In fact, if you are bending your bristles while brushing, you are touching too hard and may unknowingly be contributing to receding gums.

5. Hormonal change
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Hormones can change the way gums react to irritants and a variety of stimuli. A surge in hormone production during puberty alters the way blood flows to the gums leading to sensitivity and, sometimes, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding during brushing and flossing.

For women, events such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause that alter hormone production will also affect the gums. During menopause, for example, a decline in estrogen production can lead to a loss of bone density leading to receding gums and other dental complications.

6. Tobacco and alcohol use
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Alcohol, tobacco, and other chemicals, drugs, or food additives that irritate the mouth and gums can contribute to receding gums. Tobacco and alcohol are particularly noxious sources of irritation to the gums that can not only lead to gum recession, but also to destructive oral cancers.

Another major problem with tobacco and alcohol use is the drying effect using such drugs have on the mouth. Without adequate saliva to control oral microbes, bacterial growth gets out of control leading to infections, periodontal disease, and gum recession.

7. Bruxism
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Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a common disorder in which a patient clenches or grinds his teeth together while sleeping. Teeth grinding directly damages the soft tissues. The pressure put on the gums by the clenching and grinding motion can eventually loosen teeth enough to create deep pockets between the gums and the tooth. The debris and food trapped in these deep pockets invariably fuel bacterial breeding which ultimately causes the gums to recede.

8. Misaligned bite
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Sometimes a misaligned, or maloccluded bite can also result in direct damage to the soft gum tissues. Teeth that don’t fit together correctly could accidentally scrape, abrade, and eventually wholly remove healthy gums from their proper locations. For patients with dental malocclusion, orthodontic treatment can often prevent or stop gum recession.