Why are My Gums Receding?

Receding gums can cause all sorts of problems: cosmetic problems, sensitive teeth, root cavities, etc… Many people mistakenly assume that receding gums is a natural part of the aging process.  It is not!  Most gum recession is preventable if you can identify its underlying cause and eliminate it.  If you have receding gums, read this article to learn about the various causes and the treatments that are available.

Causes of Gum Recession

Gum recession can result from a wide range of causes, and many people have more than one cause working together.  It is essential to the success of any treatment that you (with the help of your dentist) correctly identify the underlying cause of the receding gums first.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is a progressive bacterial infection and corresponding inflammatory disease that destroys the jawbone, ligaments, and gum tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth.  As gum disease worsens, the gum tissues pull away from the teeth, exposing the roots. 

Some people have gum recession that persists after they successfully treat gum disease.  It is possible to have receded gums that are healthy if the disease process has stopped.

Teeth Clenching and/or Grinding

One cause of gum recession that is often overlooked is nighttime clenching and/or grinding.  When someone has this subconscious habit during sleep, the teeth and their surrounding tissues withstand heavy forces.  These forces put stress on the gum tissues where they meet the teeth, and the gums respond by pulling back.

Orthodontic Movement

The movement of teeth with orthodontics involves a complicated process of reorganizing the jawbone around the teeth, enabling them to move into different positions in the mouth.  In a healthy mouth, jawbone will completely encircle each tooth.  There are two ways that orthodontic movement can result in gum recession. 

First, orthodontic treatment that moves the teeth too quickly can cause the bone reorganization to malfunction. This is one of the risks associated with direct-to-consumer orthodontics (not overseen by your dentist).

Another potential problem is orthodontically moving the teeth into a position where it is impossible for the jawbone to surround them.  This commonly occurs with attempts to widen a smile by moving the teeth outward toward the cheeks. 

Inappropriate Brushing Technique

While most people think this is the most common cause of receding gums, it is actually the least common.  It is possible to irritate your gums enough with an improper technique in brushing the teeth, but it is unlikely.  Most people miss the gumline altogether when brushing.

When someone does brush “too hard”, it will not only irritate the gums; it will also abrade away the surface of the tooth, making it obvious to your dentist.

Treatment for Gum Recession

Most treatment of the causes of gum recession aims to stop the worsening of the receding gums and address any symptoms the recession causes.  Some people undergo procedures to actually correct the recession and reposition gum tissues back to the correct location on the teeth.

Preventing Further Recession

In order to prevent receding gums from getting worse, your dentist will determine the cause first.  Treatments to stop gum recession include deep cleanings to halt gum disease, nighttime appliances to stop damage from clenching and grinding, proper positioning of the teeth, and great oral hygiene at home.  Because you could have one or more of the causes listed above, you may have to implement one or more treatments.

Those who experience symptoms like sensitivity may also require treatment to alleviate those symptoms.  There are many different ways to address sensitive teeth, and we will not cover those here.  Stay tuned for another blog on that topic.

Repositioning Gum Tissues

When the recession is unsightly or causes unmanageable symptoms, you may opt to reposition gum tissue and cover the exposed roots.  There are a few different procedures that accomplish this.  First is gum grafting, which takes gum tissue from a different area of the mouth and places it in the deficient area.  Another method is a relatively new procedure known as the Pinhole technique, in which a periodontist repositions the existing gum tissue, moving it back into place on the roots.  Both are surgical procedures.

More Questions about Gum Recession?

Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill, Dr. Cara and Dr. Summer.  We can answer all of your questions about gum recession, assess your specific situation, and recommend treatment to stop its progression.

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