It’s fair to say that receding gums is one of those less-talked-about dental issues. And that makes sense; it doesn’t typically start until after you’re 40, and it happens so incrementally that most people don’t really notice it unless it starts causing other oral health issues.
As an inevitable part of aging, it’s helpful to know about receding gums. So in this post, we’ll cover the basics of receding gums so you can better answer the questions, “Why are my gums receding and what can I do about it?” We’ll cover topics like:
- What are receding gums?
- What do receding gums look like as they progress?
- What causes receding gums?
- What happens when you don’t treat receding gums?
- How to stop receding gums from getting worse
- How to fix receding gums
What are receding gums?
In short, receding gums is when your gums pull back from your teeth, exposing more of your tooth. In more severe cases, receding gums can even expose your tooth roots, creating problematic pockets between teeth and gums where infection can happen.
Now, as we mentioned above, gum recession happens very gradually. As a result, we’ve found that many of our patients at Shoreline Dental Studio don’t realize they have receding gums until we’ve identified it at a check up. As with many oral health issues, it’s always helpful to catch gum recession in the early stages.
Spotting gum disease early allows us time to determine the best course for how to stop your receding gums from getting worse. We can also advise you on changes to your at-home oral care to help prevent further gum recession, as well as come up with an appropriate treatment plan.
What do receding gums look like as they progress?
Receding gums goes through several stages, from barely noticeable with no symptoms to very deep and painful. With initial gum recession, you might notice your teeth respond differently to hot and cold: tooth sensitivity is a common sign of gum recession at its beginning stages.
The next stages of gum recession can include a variety of quite obvious changes to your oral environment. Signs of advanced gum recession include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Bad breath
- Mouth sores
- Pain when brushing or flossing
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of receding gums, we recommend coming in to see us at our San Clemente or Mission Viejo office right away. Dr. Ritzau, Dr. Livingston, Dr. Saad, or Dr. Winters can assess if receding gums is indeed the cause of these uncomfortable symptoms or if it’s another oral health issue. We can then pinpoint a treatment for preventing further recession or for fixing the damage.
What causes receding gums?
As mentioned, receding gums is a typical occurrence with aging. For those with healthy teeth and gums, gum recession is oftentimes the result of many years of aggressive tooth brushing. But what about other reasons for what causes receding gums? Below are the most common ones:
Gum disease: also called “periodontal disease,” gum disease is a bacterial infection that destroys gum tissue and the bone that holds your teeth in place. Gum disease is the main cause of receding gums.
Genetics: Yes, genes play a part in your oral health. It turns out your susceptibility to issues like gum disease and tooth decay is partly based on genetics. Studies show that 30% of people are predisposed to gum disease, no matter how pristine their oral health care.
Lackluster oral care at home: Twice daily brushing paired with flossing once a day does wonders for removing food debris and plaque. But if your at-home oral hygiene routine is less than stellar, it’s easier for plaque to turn into tartar — that hard substance that builds up on and in between teeth. Tartar can only be removed with professional cleaning and if it sits for long enough, it can lead to gum recession and infection.
Hormonal changes: Female hormone levels that change during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause can make you more vulnerable to receding gums.
Bruxism: A persistent habit of grinding or clenching your teeth puts extra pressure on your teeth and jawbone. In turn, this can lead to receding gums.
Crooked or misaligned teeth: Similar to bruxism, crooked or misaligned teeth can cause receding gums. When your teeth don’t align well, undue force can be put on your gums and jawbone, leading to gum recession.
Tobacco use: Across the board, smoking isn’t great for maintaining healthy teeth. And when it comes to gum recession, it’s all about the plaque: tobacco users are more likely to have harder-to-remove sticky plaque on their teeth, leading to inflamed gum tissue and gum recession.
What happens when you don’t treat receding gums?
Receding gums is both caused by gum disease and a contributor to it. How? We’ve talked about how gum disease destroys gum tissue, creating pockets between the gums and teeth. These pockets further recede your gums by creating space for disease-causing bacteria to gather. If left untreated, the bacteria can turn into a severe infection that damages the supporting tissue and bone structures holding your teeth in place. Ultimately, you might lose teeth because of gum recession.
Losing teeth can start a domino effect: gaps invite surrounding teeth to shift and fill spaces which can start misalignment problems and crooked teeth. In turn, shifted teeth can cause difficulties with eating and chewing.
To resolve gaps, you might have to consider tooth replacement treatment like implants, bridges or dentures. Thankfully, Dr. Ritzau and the team at Shoreline Dental Studio are experts at restorative dentistry and can help you with natural-looking, properly functioning teeth.
How to stop receding gums from getting worse
Of course, preventative steps are always the goal when it comes to your teeth. Here are some changes you can make in your daily habits to nip gum recession in the bud:
Practice gentle oral care – First, treating your teeth and gums gently is the key. Prevent receding gums by brushing with a soft toothbrush, using mild-to-moderate pressure and small circular or very short back-and-forth strokes. If you’re concerned about getting a good clean with a gentle touch, simply brush for longer. Also consider brushing more frequently, like after every meal.
You can also add an antibacterial, fluoride mouthwash (like CloSys) to your oral care routine. It will leave your mouth extra clean and strengthen the enamel at the same time.
Choose nutrient-rich foods – Switch to a teeth-healthy diet filled with leafy greens, brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, dairy products (or dairy alternatives), eggs, meat, and fish. You’ll get the calcium, potassium, vitamins A, D, C and K you need for strong, resilient gums and teeth.
Stop smoking: Using tobacco can increase your oral bacteria so quitting will contribute to a healthier oral environment. You’ll help minimize gum recession as well as tooth decay and staining.
Treat existing oral health or orthodontic issues – If you have crooked or misaligned teeth, bruxism, or cavities, we recommend resolving these issues. Why? As mentioned earlier, they can contribute to gum recession through extra wear and tear on your teeth and gums. At Shoreline Dental Studio, we not only provide comprehensive dental care services but orthodontic care with Invisalign clear aligners.
Visit your Orange County dentist twice a year (or more) – You’re most likely familiar with the recommendation to see your dentist every six months. Check-ups and professional cleanings with your San Clemente and Mission Viejo dentist go a long way in helping you stay on top of your oral health.
Bi-annual cleaning may be enough for those who only need standard care, but we have found that most of our patients benefit from attending more than 2 cleanings per year. For this reason, your hygienist may recommend you come in every 3-4 months to stay on top of your oral health.
At a check-up and cleaning, we remove the plaque and tartar that your at-home routine can’t, leaving you with a sparkling clean mouth. Sometimes, a professional cleaning is exactly what you need to reverse or stop any gum disease that could result in gum recession.
These visits also allow us to check on your overall oral health. We look for any signs of gum disease or recession and suggest a treatment plan if needed.
How to fix receding gums
If you find yourself with receding gums, you might be wondering, “Can receding gums grow back?” Unfortunately, they don’t on their own, but rest assured, your Shoreline Dental Studio team has plenty of treatment options for how to fix receding gums.
Of course, the type of treatment depends on the cause and severity of your gum recession. The most common treatments for receding gums include the following:
Deep Cleaning – This treatment, also called root planing or tooth scaling, is meant to help with mild gum recession. During this procedure, gums are folded back to expose your teeth roots, which are then smoothed down.
It turns out, bacteria have a hard time sticking to smooth surfaces so this treatment creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Sometimes an antibiotic gel is also applied to kill hard-to-reach germs. Other times, oral antibiotics or a mouth rinse is prescribed. Your gum tissue is then folded back over to cover your roots.
Surgery – With receding gums that already exhibit deep pockets or in cases where you’ve already experienced excessive bone loss, a deep cleaning isn’t enough to fix your gum recession. Instead, your hygienist might recommend bone regeneration or gum grafts to restore your receding gums.
- Bone regeneration: This type of surgery encourages your body to regenerate the tissue and bone you’ve lost using a material inserted into your gums. This treatment starts out like a deep cleaning but with the addition of the regenerative material before folding the tissue back over the roots.
- Tissue grafting: If you’ve lost too much gum tissue and it can’t be regenerated, a tissue graft is often the recommendation. Tissue for your graft might come from other parts of your gums or is taken from the roof of your mouth.
Addressing receding gums with your Orange County dentists
If you think you might be dealing with receding gums, our expert dentists at Shoreline Dental Studio can help. With a compassionate approach and a focus on comfortable care, you’re in good hands for determining how to fix your receding gums successfully.
Contact us today to schedule a visit to our San Clemente or Mission Viejo office.