Receding of the gums or gum receding is a condition where there is wearing or pulling back of the margin of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth leading to more than normal exposure of the tooth and its root. In gum recession, there is formation of gaps or pockets between the teeth and the gum line which makes this region more susceptible for accumulation of disease-causing bacteria. If this condition is left untreated, then there may be severe damage of the bone structures and the supporting tissue of the teeth, which can ultimately result in loss of the tooth . Receding of the gums is a common dental problem. Many people do not realize that they have gum recession as this condition is slow to develop. The initial sign of receding of the gums is tooth sensitivity. The tooth which has receding gums can also appear longer than normal. A notch is commonly felt near the line of the gum.
Receding gums is not a condition which should be ignored. A dentist should be consulted immediately to discuss ways and methods to prevent further damage and to repair the gum.
Causes of Receding Gums
- Genes also play a role in dental diseases. There are some people who are more susceptible to gum disease. According to a research, 30% of the population is more predisposed towards gum disease, irrespective of the level of care they take for their teeth.
- Periodontal diseases are bacterial gum infections, which destroy the gum tissue and the supporting bone which holds the teeth in their place. Gum disease is one of the main causes of receding gums.
- Insufficient dental care, such as inadequate flossing and brushing causes easy formation of plaque into tartar or calculus, which is a hard substance that accumulates between the teeth and can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning. Such problems can lead to receding gums.
- Aggressive brushing of the teeth, i.e. either brushing the teeth the wrong way or brushing the teeth very hard, can cause erosion of the enamel on the teeth and result in receding gums.
- Hormonal changes especially in females occurring during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can increase the sensitivity of the gums and make them more vulnerable to receding gums.
- Clenching and grinding of the teeth puts pressure on the teeth, causing the gums to recede.
- Tobacco users are at an increased risk for having sticky plaque on their teeth. This plaque is difficult to remove and can lead to receding gums.
- Piercing of the tongue or lip or and the jewelry in it can cause irritation of the gums by rubbing on them. This can lead to wearing off of the gums.
- Misaligned bite or crooked teeth put increased force on the bone and gums causing receding of the gums.
Treatment of Receding Gums
If the gum recession is mild, then treatment is done by cleaning the affected region. In the cleaning process is known as tooth scaling and root planing. In this procedure the accumulated plaque and tartar on the teeth and the root surfaces beneath the gum line is removed carefully and the root area, which is exposed is smoothed, so that bacteria does not easily attach there. The dentist may prescribe antibiotics too in case for any bacteria which is remaining.
If the receding gums cannot be treated with deep cleaning due to the excess bone loss and if the pockets are very deep, then surgery of the gums may be needed for repairing the damage occurring as a result of receding gums.
Surgery for Receding Gums
- Pocket depth reduction is a procedure done by the dentist or the periodontist where the affected gum tissue is folded back and the harmful bacteria is removed from the pockets. The dentist then tightly secures the gum tissue back in place over the root of the tooth thereby eliminating the pockets or decreasing their size.
- Regeneration is done in cases where there has been destruction of the supporting bone of the teeth due to receding gums. In this procedure the lost bone and tissue is regenerated by folding back the gum tissue and cleaning the bacteria from the pockets. After this, a regenerative material, such as graft tissue, membrane or tissue-stimulating protein, will be applied for encouraging the body to naturally regenerate the bone and tissue in that region. After the placement of the regenerative material, the gum tissue is again secured over the root of the teeth.
- Soft tissue graft (connective tissue graft is more commonly used), is a procedure in which a flap of skin is incised on the palate (roof of mouth) and the tissue beneath the flap, which is known as subepithelial connective tissue is removed. This flap of tissue is then stitched to the gum tissue, which is around the exposed root. After the connective tissue for the grafting procedure has been taken the incised flap is stitched back down.
Free gingival graft is a different type of grafting procedure where the tissue is directly taken from the roof of the mouth and not from under the skin.
In some cases, if there is sufficient gum tissue present around the affected teeth, then the dentist can graft gum from the adjacent tooth rather than removing it from the palate. This type of grafting is known as pedicle graft.
Prevention of Receding Gums
- Taking care of your mouth is the only way to prevent receding gums.
- Daily brushing and flossing of the teeth should be done.
- It is also important to visit your dentist every six months and more often if there is receding of the gums.
- Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and brushing the right way.
- If the receding gums are occurring as a result of teeth grinding or misaligned bite then that problem should be rectified by visiting your dentist.
- It is important to follow a healthy and well balanced diet.
- Smokers should quit smoking.
- Always monitor any changes which occur in your mouth.