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Receding gums are a common problem also associated with periodontitis. There are signs to indicate your gums are receding and several causes. Your dentist can advise what you can do to help and possible treatment options.

What do receding gums look like?

In a healthy mouth, the gums are pink and there will be an even gum line all around teeth. If they begin to recede, however, then they will appear inflamed and the gum line will appear lower (or the teeth longer) in some parts; this is due to the deterioration of gum tissue which, as it wears away, it leaves more of the tooth exposed. So, if your teeth appear longer or your gums looks like they are diminishing, then you have receding gums.

It is estimated that 23% of adults in the US have one or more tooth surfaces affected by recession of their gums of 3mm or more. It is a condition seen frequently in dental practices and clinicians are often presented with the puzzle how to treat the condition - surgically or otherwise.

When the gum recession occurs, gaps form between the teeth and gum line, which are known as pockets. These pockets create a space where bacteria can build up and cause disease. If not addressed, all supporting structures of the teeth can be severely damaged (bone and tissue), and may ultimately lead to the loss of teeth.

Receding gum tissue can also lead to other signs associated with periodontitis:

  • Bad mouth odor or halitosis

  • Gums that are red and swollen

  • Gums that tend to bleed frequently

  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth or dysgeusia

  • Wobbly teeth

You may also be aware that your bite has changed or there may be discomfort in your gums. One of the key problems associated with gums that are receding is that bacteria is more likely to grow and so it is crucial to follow good, daily oral care and regular dental checkups are essential.

What are the causes of receding gums?

Gum recession is a common dental issue so if you notice receding gums and you haven’t had a checkup for some time, then it is advisable to make an appointment. The first signs of receding gums are usually sensitive teeth or teeth that appear looks longer than normal and often there will be a notch near the gum line that can be felt. Unfortunately, most people don't realize they have gum recession because it happens slowly but it is not something to be ignored. If it appears your gums are receding then you need to visit your dentist as there are treatments that can repair the current damage and prevent more in future.

Receding gums may have several causes:  the most serious reason is periodontal or gum disease. While periodontal disease is not something you can cure, it is manageable and must be addressed as the health of your mouth and teeth are dependent upon it.

Other causes include:

  • Advanced age.

  • Genetic predisposition.

  • Inadequate dental care.

  • Forceful tooth brushing.

  • Inflammatory medical conditions like diabetes.

  • Hormones - those during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.

  • Injury or other damage to the mouth.

  • Smoking products or chewing tobacco.

  • Teeth that are poorly aligned.

  • Badly-fitting dental prosthesis (dentures).

  • Bruxism (teeth grinding/clenching) while sleeping or awake.

What can you do if your gums recede or move away from your teeth due to advanced gum disease (periodontitis)?

Receding gums cannot be repaired as receded tissue will not grow back. However, you can prevent further deterioration through care and treatment, which will be determined by the cause of the problems. For example, if aggressive brushing or poor dental hygiene is the reason, dental hygienists can advise on brushing and flossing behaviors. Interdental cleaners or dental picks can assist with cleaning hard-to-reach areas and the use of antibacterial mouthwashes may also aid in the elimination of plaque between teeth.

  • Teeth scaling and root planing for mild gum recession

Your dentist may be able to treat mild gum recession by deep-cleaning problem areas. Plaque and tartar that has accumulated on the teeth and on below gum-line root surfaces is removed and the exposed area smoothed to prevent future reattachment of bacteria during the scaling and root planing process. Antibiotics also may be prescribed to remove any that remains.

  • Surgery for advanced gum recession

In the event of excess loss of bone and pockets that are too deep, deep cleaning may be insufficient and gum surgery may be required to repair the damage caused by the receding gums.

  • Open flap scaling and root planing: Here, the dentist or periodontist folds back the impaired gum tissue, removes the harmful bacteria from the pockets and then returns the gum tissue securely over the tooth root, thus removing the pockets or lessening their size.

  • Regeneration: If as a result of gum recession the bone supporting your teeth has been damaged, a procedure to restore lost bone and tissue may be advised. In this procedure, the periodontist folds back the gum tissue and removes the disease-causing bacteria. Membranes (filters), bone grafts or tissue-stimulating proteins are then used to facilitate your body regenerating bone and tissue for itself.

Removing bacteria and reviving bone and tissue aids the reduction of pocket depth and repairs the damage resulting from periodontal disease progression. Combining good daily dental hygiene and ongoing maintenance treatment by your dentist or periodontist, the chances of keeping your natural teeth are increased and associated health problems reduced.

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