Have you noticed your teeth looking longer? Red, swollen, or bleeding gums? Have you had sensitivity to hot or cold foods? If you’ve begun to notice your gums receding you may be concerned. Let’s look into why gums recede and why it’s not a good thing.
Your gums are designed to hug around the root of each tooth to protect and stabilize your roots. The roots of your teeth don’t have protective enamel coating like the top, or “crown,” of your teeth. If your gums begin to recede you run the risk of exposing your roots to bacteria and food. Your roots may cause extreme sensitivity or pain when they come into contact with hot, cold, or sometimes sweet foods. Additionally, without the protection of enamel or gums, bacteria will cause decay in your tooth root. Gums cannot grow back or regenerate, but you still have some options for protecting your teeth and restoring your gums.
Brushing Incorrectly or Too Hard
If you use a hard-bristled toothbrush, or brush aggressively you may be doing more damage than good. Hard bristles and or forceful scrubbing causes stress on your gums. Over time, your gums will recede from this type of treatment. If you brush twice a day, plaque and tartar shouldn’t be sticky or hard enough to withstand a gentle massage with a soft-bristled brush. If you have a build-up of plaque or tartar that can’t be gently exfoliated away with your toothbrush, make an appointment with your dental hygienist to get a fresh slate.
Additionally, you should brush with your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle tilted towards the bottom of your mouth when brushing the lower teeth and the top of your mouth when brushing upper teeth. Move your toothbrush in small circles, massaging your teeth and gums gently. Using broad horizontal strokes can also cause stress to your gums.
Periodontal disease is when your gums become infected with bacteria and inflamed, causing them to recede both down and away from your teeth. They contract this type of infection from a build-up of bacteria or plaque around the gum-line. When your gums recede, this causes to small pockets between your gum and teeth that become a harbor for bacteria. It quickly becomes a vicious cycle of infection, recession, re-infection as bacteria make homes for themselves in your gums.
Gingivitis is the beginning stages and early warning of periodontal disease. This is a great opportunity to treat your periodontal disease early and save your gum structures. You should contact your dentist or hygienist if you experience bleeding when you brush or floss, notice your gums turning more red than pink, or struggle with persistent bad breath. These can all be symptoms of gingivitis and if treated early can save your gums, teeth, and wallet.
If you don’t treat gingivitis or it persists, you will develop full-blown periodontal disease. This is when there are severe pockets between your gums and teeth. Some people are more at-risk for developing periodontal disease. You can read more about patients that have a higher risk here.
It’s important to treat periodontal disease. If you choose not to change your habits or treat your periodontal disease your teeth will begin to lose bone mass and will eventually fall out.
Many people grind their teeth to get out anxiety, aggression, or when their jaw is misaligned. Often people grind at night and may not realize they are grinding their teeth, but some people grind even while they are awake. Grinding your teeth causes stress on your gums and can cause your gums to recede over time. Additionally, grinding causes your teeth to loosen in their sockets, creating pockets that can become infected with bacteria, leading to periodontal disease.
A direct hit or intense pressure from an injury may cause your gums to recede where they were damaged. This is most likely to happen during a contact sport, a fall, a dental procedure, or when wearing ill-fitting dental appliances. If your appliance is hurting and doesn’t adjust in a couple days contact your dentist to see if it needs to be adjusted.
Worried that your gums are receding? In our next post we will discuss your treatment options, as well as how to prevent gum recession. In the meantime, if you think you may have gum recession contact your dentist.