It starts with your teeth seemingly, inexplicably, appearing longer. In reality, your gums are receding. This can be due to a number of reasons including age, aggressive brushing, occlusion and in cases a condition called periodontal disease, or gum disease.
Although gum disease is reversible in its early stages, when it is known as gingivitis, it can become an irreversible condition called periodontitis, which threatens the loss of your teeth. Since we definitely don't want that to happen, you will need some information so that you will know what to do if your gums are receding.
Before getting too deep in the weeds about receding gums, it may help to have a look at what healthy gums should look like. Although most people have gums that are light pink in color, their color could vary.
Just as everyone has different levels of melanin in their skin, they also have varying amounts of melanin in their gums, making them appear different colors.
Some common traits of healthy gums include gums that:
- Fit snugly against your teeth
- Are firm and not swollen
- Don't bleed when you are brushing and flossing
- Typically pink with possible pigmentation depending in ethnicity
If you have swollen gums with large pockets, or gums that frequently bleed, they will need some TLC and possibly therapeutic intervention.
What are receding gums?
Your gums can recede when they draw away from your teeth, leaving tooth roots exposed. Medically, this is known as gingival recession.
Some symptoms of receding gums include:
- Increased teeth sensitivity
- Teeth that appear abnormally long and more yellowish by gumline
- Increased erosion/wear by your gum line
- Sometimes deeper pockets around your gum line
Periodontal disease is an ongoing chronic inflammation of the gums and soft tissues of the mouth. It is caused by the accumulation of bacteria and food debris that develops into plaque, a sticky film that causes inflamed gums.
Some common reasons why you may have receding gums due to periodontal disease include:
- Improper oral hygiene that leads to an accumulation of bacteria and plaque
- Crooked teeth
- Damaged or faulty fillings
- Poorly fitting bridges or restorations
- Dry mouth
- Certain hormonal imbalances
- Medical conditions like diabetes
- The use of tobacco products
Other reasons why you may have receding gums:
- Occlusion: often individuals who clench and grind their teeth, or have uneven bites are more likely to have gingival recession due to increased stress on their teeth
- Aggressive brushing: Aggressive brushing, focusing too much on certain areas and using a medium to hard bristled toothbrush over time can cause your gum tissue to recede.
- Age: Over time it’s natural for our gum tissues to recede slightly.
How can I keep my gums from receding?
If you have healthy gum tissues but are still experiencing recession consult with your dentist to help identify the cause which could be a combination of the other reasons discussed above.
Identifying and treating gingivitis in this early stage is critical to preventing the condition from worsening into periodontitis.The best way to prevent your gums from receding from gingivitis/periodontal disease is to practice proper oral hygiene at home.
Brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss them at least once per day. If you are in the early stages of gum disease, you may be advised to also use a good mouthwash to keep oral bacteria in check.
Thanks for your support!
- Dr. Houlik