It's not uncommon for people to concern themselves with receding hair lines as they age. But there's another less commonly considered "line" that can also recede: your gum line. And this one can lead to some serious dental problems.
Receding gums occur when the gums and bones in the mouth begin to move away from the teeth. Gums do naturally recede with age, which is why many people think that there's really no way to stop receding gums from occurring. Truth is gums may recede for a number of reasons, including overaggressive brushing, inadequate brushing and flossing, tooth grinding (bruxism) and gum disease.
Left untreated, receding gums expose tooth roots, which can be painful and cause sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks. Exposed roots are also prone to develop tooth decay, eventually leading to tooth loss and gum disease.
How to Prevent Receding Gums
There is no cure for receding gums, but there are some simple steps you can take to prevent receding gums in the first place:
- Reduce plaque buildup. Receding gum lines are often caused by gum disease. This condition begins with dental plaque, a sticky substance that contains bacteria, mucous and food debris -- all of which wreaks havoc on gum tissue. To prevent receding gums, practice good oral hygiene habits, brush at least twice a day and floss once a day.
- Brush right. Did you know you can brush too hard? To prevent receding gums, choose a soft-bristled toothbrush and use mild-to-moderate pressure. Brush in a small circular or short back and forth motions.
- Consider a night guard. Grinding or teeth clenching can cause gums to recede. Ask your dentist if a night guard might help you prevent receding gums.
- See your dentist twice a year. Regular dental visits allow a dentist to keep your teeth and gums healthy and stop receding gums at the first sign of a problem.
Treatment for Receding Gums
While there are ways to stop receding gums, once you have them there's no magic cure for receding gums. And once your gums recede, they won't ever grow back. Isn't it time to see if your gums measure up? Here are some warning signs to watch for:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold food and beverages
- Food getting stuck between your gums and supporting teeth
- Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
- Redness or puffiness around the gums
- Bad breath
- Exposed tooth roots
Your dental treatment for receding gums will depend on the level of gum recession and the amount of damage to the underlying bone. If there is enough tissue left in your gums to act as a barrier against disease and bone loss, your dentist can perform scaling and root planing to remove dental plaque and dental tartar build up.
Excessive gum recession may require dental surgery, especially if your tooth roots are exposed. During gum grafting, a periodontist uses a small strip of gum tissue from either the roof of your mouth or somewhere else to cover the exposed root. This treatment for receding gums can be performed in the dentist's office under local anesthesia or conscious sedation.
Without treatment for receding gums, tooth loss is almost inevitable. So if you're concerned about the health of your gums, see your dentist.