People used to just accept that their gums would shrink over time. The phrase “getting long in the tooth” comes from this idea. As people got older, their gums shrank, making their teeth look “longer.” We now know that gum recession isn’t just something that happens to everyone. We can stop it from happening and fix it if it does.
What Causes Gum Recession?
There are many different things that can cause gum recession, and even different teeth in your mouth can have more than one cause. It’s important for you and your dentist to know what might be causing your toothache so you can stop it from getting worse and keep it from coming back after treatment.
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a response by the body to the toxins made by bad bacteria in plaque and tartar buildup. The jawbone and gums around an infected tooth are destroyed by the toxins and inflammation caused by the body. Over time, as gum disease gets worse, the gums slowly pull away from the tooth, revealing the roots.
It is possible to have bad gum disease without your gums pulling away from your teeth. In cases where the gum pockets are very deep, the toxins destroy the jawbone even though the gum tissue is still there. This means that even if the gum disease is very bad, the gums can still look pretty normal. To rule this out, you need to go to the dentist regularly and have your gums measured once a year.
Clenching and/or Grinding Teeth
When you sleep, clenching and/or grinding your teeth, which is also called “bruxism,” can do a lot of damage to your teeth, gums, and jaw joints. Different people react in different ways to bruxism’s strong forces. Some of them have teeth that are very worn down and short. Others have a lot of gum loss. Still others may have jaw joints that pop, click, or lock up. This is mostly an uncontrollable problem that does not affect everyone in the same way.
When you clench or grind your teeth, you put more force on them than usual, which is often taken up by the tissues around the teeth instead of the teeth themselves.
Bad Tooth Position
Some people’s jaws aren’t big enough to hold all of their teeth. When the adult teeth start to come in, they have to come in close together. When this crowding pushes a tooth out toward the lips and cheeks or in toward the tongue, it won’t have enough jawbone and gum to cover it on that side. This can happen as soon as the teeth come in or as time goes on and they get closer together.
Improper Orthodontic Movements
Gum recession can happen if teeth are moved too quickly or if they are moved outside of the jawbone and gums that are already there. When braces move too quickly, the cells around the teeth don’t have time to rebuild jawbone and gum tissue. In some cases of orthodontic movement, widening the smile (so that more teeth show and the face looks better) can move the teeth outside of the jawbone, or to the cheek side. This makes them more likely to have gum recession. The teeth should stay in the jawbone where they belong.
This is why DIY clear aligner therapy at home makes us a little nervous. Who made sure your jawbone was strong enough for your teeth to move? Who makes sure that the teeth stay inside the jawbone so that you don’t have to worry about gum recession?
Wrong Brushing Technique
Most people think this is what causes gum recession, which is interesting. In fact, it is pretty rare for someone to brush their teeth so badly that they hurt their gums. If anything, we see a bad way of brushing that doesn’t even touch the gums.
Still, it is possible to brush so hard that you hurt the gum tissues. Using a toothbrush with hard bristles will help with this. If this is happening, the same side of the tooth will usually be badly worn down as well. This will help your dentist figure out why your gums are receding.
What Can You Do to Prevent Gum Recession?
To stop gum recession, you have to deal with all of the above causes.
- Use professional dental care to stop and treat gum disease. Take good care of your teeth by practicing good oral hygiene at home and by coming to our office for professional teeth cleanings.
- Wearing a protective nightguard can stop you from clenching or grinding your teeth at night.
- Orthodontics is a way to fix teeth that aren’t in the right place. It’s best to deal with this as soon as possible.
- Make sure that any orthodontic tooth movement is done by a dentist and closely supervised by one. Do not DIY!
- Use only toothbrushes with soft bristles and move them gently in a circle. Ask Phyllis and Nancy for help if you need it. They can show you the best way to brush your teeth.
What Can You Do to Repair Gum Recession?
So what if your gums are already receding? You should still use the ways to stay safe that were listed above. They will help stop the recession from getting worse and make any treatment you use work better. Your treatment may work better if you do what your dentist tells you to do about oral hygiene, wearing a nightguard, brushing your teeth, etc.
Gingival grafting is the most common way to fix places where gum tissue has been lost. During this surgery, gum tissue from another part of the mouth is used to “graft” over the area where gums have been lost. The healthy gum tissue is placed so that it covers the exposed roots, and small stitches hold it in place. The surgery lets the gums quickly take in the new gum tissue and heal without any problems.
This procedure does more than just make you look better. It puts the gums back where they should be for good health. By covering the roots, you protect your teeth from becoming sensitive to sweets and hot or cold temperatures. You also make it less likely that cavities will form quickly on the root surface, which is weaker (roots do not have a covering of enamel).
The gums heal fast! Some people might find it scary to think about doing this. We don’t want to make it less important in any way. It is a surgery, and you will be given very specific instructions to follow afterward. The most important thing to remember is that the results are worth it!
Dr. Motiwala in International Press
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