Receding gums is a relatively common dental problem for which several helpful treatments currently exist. This potentially painful problem in the gum tissues of the mouth often occurs among men and women over 40, as a result of a lifetime of gradual dental decline; and among teenagers, probably as a result of too much sugar in the diet contributing to dental problems.
RECEDING GUMS - RECEDING TEETH
Gum recession occurs for quite a number of reasons; in many cases, the problem actually begins not with the gums shrinking away from the teeth, oddly enough, so much as the teeth shrinking away from the gums. For example, it may be caused by harsh brushing, inadequate brushing, or grinding your teeth, all of which gradually erode the enamel surfaces off the teeth. Acidic diets can be similarly harmful to the teeth, as can tobacco, especially dipping tobacco.
Gum recession is also part of a long-term disease or deterioration called periodontitis. In its first stage, gingivitis, the gums became inflamed, or swollen, as a result of bacteria accumulating as plaque in the small gaps between the teeth. As the disease progresses, the result may be periodontitis itself, in which the gums begin to lose their attachments to the teeth and sag away. In its worst forms, periodontitis can actually lead to teeth loosening and even falling out of the mouth.
Although gums usually recede over a long period of time, the problem typically becomes noticeable to the sufferer (at least outside of regular dental check-ups, which are essential for good oral health) only when it becomes painful. This pain may result from the teeth themselves: the area which is normally caused by gums is much more sensitive than the part visible in a healthy mouth, so when it is exposed, it can be worn down and become sensitive much more easily.
Other symptoms are visible but not necessarily painful. For example, teeth may seem to grow slightly longer (because more of them are now exposed above the gum line), or grow apart (actually they usually haven't done so, but seem to have because the gums are no longer filling up the space the way they used to).
Fortunately, a variety of treatment options are available for receding gums, both before the problem gets as serious as periodontitis, but also for the most serious cases. In the first case, a dentist will try to identify the underlying cause of the deterioration, and remove it. For example, excessively harsh brushing (pushing too hard and too quickly with the bristles of the toothbrush) can wear away teeth; such patients should use softer brushes and/or concentrate on brushing more softly. Teeth that have become sensitive through wearing away may also be treated for this, for example through special toothpastes, or through sealants that cover the affected area and reduce sensitivity.
If gingivitis has been caused by poor oral hygiene, then this is usually reversible. It should be improved, firstly by brushing more frequently and more carefully, but also, wherever affordable and possible, by getting regular cleanings and checkups at the dentist's office. During cleanings, plaque which has accumulated and hardened into tartar (also known as calculus) can be properly removed by a dental hygienist, through what is called scaling.
The most serious cases, including periodontitis, require gum tissue to be reintroduced or regrown in order to recover lost regions of the mouth. Currently, this can be done under anaesthetic by a specialized periodontist, usually by grafting new gum tissue to the affected areas. Nearby tissue can be shifted to cover the problem area, or the dentist may remove some tissue from the roof of the mouth and re-attach it to the area of recession. It is also theoretically possible to use gum tissue from another human donor. In the future, radical new techniques may use grafts produced using stem cells. Such oral surgery is obviously the most complicated treatment option, and often requires several weeks of recovery time.