Have you been told by your dentist or hygienist that your gums are receding? It’s a common oral health problem that happens gradually – so you might not be aware of it until you have a dental checkup. The gum tissue that protects your teeth can shrink and draw away from the surface of the tooth, painfully exposing the root in some cases.
There are several possible causes for receding gums, including:
Gum (periodontal) disease
Receding gums are often caused by gum disease. Puffy and sore gums that bleed easily can mean you have gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease. Receding gums are an indication of the next stage in gum disease, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Brushing your teeth too hard can damage gum tissue over time and cause receding gums or make them worse. On the other side of the spectrum, poor brushing or not flossing is harmful to the health of your gums and can cause them to recede. Good habits including proper brushing with the right toothbrush and regular flossing are important for maintaining a healthy smile.
Receding gums can be hereditary and run in families. In most cases, good oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits can help minimize or prevent receding gums.
Pregnancy or menopause can make you vulnerable to gum disease, due to changes in your hormone levels. Gums feel sensitive and may bleed easily as with gingivitis.
Grinding your teeth
Whether you’re awake or asleep, grinding your teeth (bruxism) can cause your gums to recede in the place where there is extra friction and pressure. Your dentist can provide a device that prevents tooth grinding that is comfortable and custom fitted for your mouth.
If you catch it early enough, receding gums may not require serious treatment. Although it can’t be reversed, progression can be halted or slowed through regular cleanings, brushing, and flossing. If you do require treatment, your dentist may perform a deep cleaning on your teeth called root planing or scaling, that removes built up tartar. Antibiotics may be applied topically or given in pill form to cure or prevent infection. For more severe cases, you may be referred to a periodontist for surgery to remove bacteria causing the gum disease from under the surface of the gums.