This is a question that is often asked, and NO ONE LOOKS FORWARD to getting “long in the tooth” because of gum recession. But the truth is here in Chattanooga, TN at McOmie Family Dentistry we see gum recession in 100% of 50 years old and older patients and 0% of our 10 year old patients.
Nevertheless, while tooth length might be an accurate measure for estimating the age of a horse, age is not the reason behind receding gums in humans. Gum recession is simply such a gradual process that it can take decades before the effects are noticeable. It can be an entirely natural process of aging. It can be like grey hair, everyone at some point is going to get it, but some people get faster than others. But that doesn’t mean we are complacent or that we take this situation lightly. It is very frustrating to see gums pull down from the teeth and leave the tooth in jeopardy of being lost. It isn’t good at all, and we can do things to treat this and things to prevent this from happening in the first place.
We Can’t Avoid All Gum Recession
Several factors are contributing to gum recession, and genetics is one of them. Some people don’t have enough jaw bone covering the front of the roots of their teeth to support gums up to the crowns or simply have fragile gums.
There are many factors that can lead to gum recession including:
- Loosing a tooth can cause the tooth next to it to have gum recession.
- Brushing too hard, or brushing with the wrong kind of tooth brush. In our previous blog post this was discussed. Using a hard or extra hard tooth brush can cause gum recession. More on this later.
- Orthodontics or braces can be the cause of gum recession. Having teeth moved too fast or in an incorrect manner can lead to a root surface being exposed. Sometimes even though the braces were done correctly there still can be gingival recession.
- Frenum pulling on the gingiva. A frenum is the piece of skin that attaches the lip to the gums. When you pull your lip out it is the little verticle piece of skin. This can pull hard on the gingiva and actually pull it down.
- Smoking and Spit Tobacco, this is a real pet peeve of the dentists at McOmie Family Dentistry. This recession is 100% avoidable by not using the tobacco product. Being cosmetic dentists we hate to see the ugly harming effects the tobacco has on a persons teeth and gums. If there is a genetic pre-disposition to gum recession this is a sure way to speed things up.
- Genetics has a part to play in gum recession as mentioned above. Some people despite doing bad things to their gums have little or no recession while others do most everything correct and get gum recession. It is best to stack the deck in your favor by doing this right this will limit the odds you will have gum recession.
- Grinding your teeth called bruxism, more on this later. It is a huge problem.
The good news is we can control many other contributing factors, and there are ways to minimize it even if you’re predisposed to gum recession.
Your Gums Versus Bruxism
Bruxism or chronic teeth-grinding causes a bunch of oral health problems, including raising your risk for gum recession. The gums begin to retreat due to the pressure on the gums created by excessive grinding. Bruxism can be a tough habit to break, particularly if you’re doing it while sleeping, but you can use a mouthguard to minimize the damage to the jaw bones, gums, and teeth. Our favorite mouthguard to treat this with is called a “comfort H/S splint” it is hard on the outside and soft on the inside. The mouthguard will help minimize damage. You don’t want to end up with a missing tooth that you need a dental implant or a cosmetic dental bridge to replace. The best thing, of course, is not to lose the tooth in the first place.
Overbrushing Easily Damages Gum Tissue
Did you know you can brush your teeth too often or, at least, too hard? Brushing your teeth isn’t like scouring the dirt out of tile grout; gums are not built to resist the abrasive attack of hard-bristled brushes (and neither is the enamel on our teeth). Soft bristles are perfect for massaging the gums without damaging them and scrubbing away plaque. The same principle applies to flossing; you should for sure floss once a day, but go lightly on those gums.
Tartar Buildup And Gum Disease
Tartar buildup is the #1 reason we see gum recession!!!! Most often gum recession is caused by neglect. When plaque isn’t removed by brushing and flossing, it will ultimately harden into tartar, which can only be removed when you visit us here at the office. So the longer you go without a regular dental cleaning, the more tartar forms along your gum lines, which puts you at greater risk for gum disease.
In the early stages of gum disease, also called gingivitis, the health of your jaw bones is not yet at risk, which is good for avoiding gum recession. If your gums are tender, swollen, and bleed easily, it’s likely gingivitis. You can combat it with healthy brushing and flossing habits, but it’s also wise to bring the problem to us. If applicable, we can prescribe mouth rinses that are specific to your needs. We can usually stop gingivitis in its tracks.
If left untreated, gingivitis progresses and becomes periodontitis. This is when gums start pulling away from the teeth, and the integrity of the jaw bones is jeopardized. There are several risk factors for gum disease, including hormonal changes (like during pregnancy), smoking, diabetes, and dry mouth as a side effect of medications. At this point, better oral hygiene habits aren’t enough and professional treatment is absolutely necessary.
Keep Those Gums Healthy!
We all need to think of the health of our gums. Often times people only focus on their teeth. They want to know “do I have any cavities.” Having no cavities is good, but it is not enough if you want your teeth to last a lifetime. If the gums are unhealthy, then you can lose your teeth even though they don’t have cavities. This happens more often then you might think. The only way we can help you keep your gums healthy is if you make an appointment so we can check them out. If there are no problems that is great if there is a problem we will start with simple things to try and reverse the damage.