web analytics

What are receding gums? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Some people, when they look in the mirror, believe that their teeth are longer than normal. Additionally, you may notice that the pink tissue over your teeth appears thinner. Well, most likely they suffer from a problem with receding gums.

This disorder, in addition to the aesthetic consequences, is capable of affecting the normal functioning of the mouth. That is why it is important to address it in time and with the help of a dentist.

What are receding gums?

The gum or gingival tissue is the soft, firm, pink part that surrounds the neck of the teeth. That is, it covers what would be the root of the dental elements, which under normal conditions, we cannot see.

The gingival tissue has the function of protecting the bone and the tooth root. In addition, it gives firmness to the teeth so that they stay in place.

We can say that there are receding gums or gingival recession when this tissue moves, leaving the root visible. According to a 2015 scientific publication, the condition exposes the bond between dental cement and enamel.

This causes the “longer teeth” effect. In reality, each tooth measures the same, only now we are able to notice the root, which should be under the gum.

What is the problem of having receding gums?

Beyond affecting the aesthetics and appearance of the smile, there are physical health consequences of having gingival recession. In the first instance, the roots, which should be protected, become susceptible to the action of bacterial plaque.

In addition, the root is very sensitive to external stimuli. More than half of patients with this problem usually have dental sensitivity, especially when chewing or brushing.

On the other hand, dental cement, which is a tissue that covers the surface of the roots, is not prepared to face external conditions. So, the disorder is associated with a higher risk of cavities.

The situation becomes more common with aging. Due to retraction due to age, older adults are more exposed to developing root cavities, that is, in the roots of their teeth.

Common symptoms

In addition to noticing that your teeth appear longer or that your gums move more up or down, you may experience some symptoms associated with retraction, such as the following:

  • Discomfort when eating, due to dental sensitivity to hot or cold foods.
  • Bleeding of the gums, since the arrangement of the tissue favors inflammation and injury when brushing.
  • Bad breath, due to the greater presence of bacterial plaque. This usually occurs because patients brush less or with an incorrect technique, due to the discomfort caused by sensitivity.

What are the causes of receding gums?

The origins of gingival retraction are varied. It is even possible for the same person to combine different risk factors at the same time.

Knowing the causes is important to treat them in a timely manner and prevent receding gums. The following are the circumstances most associated with the disorder.

1. Gingivitis and periodontitis

Inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis. It is linked to poor oral hygiene that favors the accumulation of bacterial plaque and tartar. When this accumulation is excessive, irritation of the gingival tissue is generated.

In the same sense, periodontitis is an evolution of gingivitis that was not treated in time. This excessively accumulated plaque and tartar forms “pockets” in the soft tissues around the teeth. The sacs then fill with bacteria that begin a process of infection and severe inflammation.

As the process progresses, the soft tissue around the teeth is destroyed. This also includes the gums, which recede due to the same loss of substance. The most severe consequence is the possibility of losing teeth, which fall out due to not having adequate support.

However, the reverse process can also happen. Gingival retraction due to other causes could lead to periodontal problems (gingivitis and periodontitis).

2. Smoking

Tobacco affects oral health in many ways. One of them is the inflammation of the gums, through the toxic substances in cigarettes.

People who smoke are also at greater risk of developing gingivitis and periodontitis. Therefore, it is more common for gums to recede in them.

3. Bruxism

Bruxism is called unconscious clenching and grinding of the teeth. The mechanical forces when squeezing are so powerful that they damage the periodontal tissue. This habit not only wears down the teeth, but also leads to gum recession.

4. Poor tooth brushing technique

Although the lack of a good brushing frequency leads to plaque, then gingivitis and, perhaps, receding gums, the opposite is also possible. A high frequency or power of brushing in the context of an obsession with dental hygiene will traumatize the gingival tissue.

Cleaning with a lot of pressure from the brush or with vigorous movements that hurt the gums is not recommended. On the contrary, it is a risk factor for damaging and causing tissue migration towards the roots of the teeth.

5. Orthodontics

There is controversy about the real influence of orthodontics on the appearance of receding gums. While treatment alone is not capable of causing the disorder, it increases the risk in people with thin gums.

That is why it is important that orthodontics is performed by certified and experienced professionals. In this way, the movement of the teeth is done precisely and progressively, trying to keep the trauma to the gum to a minimum.

6. Piercings

The fashion of wearing jewelry in the mouth is not without health risks. A scientific publication in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene highlights that lip and tongue piercings are directly associated with gingival recession.

The most likely explanation is that the friction of the jewelry against the gums is traumatic. Therefore, the tissue retracts as a defense mechanism.

Are there effective treatments for receding gums?

The gums do not have the ability to regenerate. If gingival retraction is confirmed, treatment guided by a dental specialist should be applied.

The health professional will establish the most probable cause of the problem. This diagnosis will be key to planning appropriate therapy that has a chance of success.

For example, if the origin is a jewel in the mouth or excessive brushing, the approach will be simpler and will require less time, since it will focus on eliminating the causative agent. On the contrary, if there is periodontitis, the treatment is long-term, since there are different aspects to address to improve the entire health of the mouth.

Therapeutic procedures can be divided into two large groups:

  • Non-surgical
  • Surgical

1. Non-surgical treatments for gingival recession

If the problem is mild and there are no complications, it is possible to dispense with surgeries. The option is to place chemical agents to reduce the sensitivity associated with retraction.

To do this, the dentist applies or prescribes one of the following substances:

  • Fluoride: through varnishes or indicated as an ingredient in specific toothpastes and mouthwashes.
  • Zinc oxide: An ingredient in some desensitizing toothpastes that can seal dentinal tubules.
  • Strontium chloride: blocks signals from the dentinal nerves to control pain and is an ingredient in toothpastes.
  • Arginine: this amino acid is also used to seal the dentinal tubules, helping to reduce the transmission of painful stimuli.
  • Potassium nitrate: This is a compound that blocks nerve signals, like strontium chloride. It can also be found in toothpastes for sensitive teeth.

The use of home remedies for gingival retraction and other substances is at the discretion of the professional, since many options are unsupported or still experimental. For example, there are reports of cases in which propolis is used. Even so, these compounds should always be evaluated within the framework of care with a specialist.

Adhesive composite restorations, on the other hand, are non-surgical approaches that involve placing tooth-colored substances to cover the exposed root. This prevents the sensitivity problem.

2. Surgical treatments for receding gums

As a 2018 literature review suggests, there are different ways to treat receding gums. Most of the time, a surgical approach is necessary and unavoidable if we want to improve aesthetics and prevent future complications.

The techniques most used by dentists are the following:

  • Gum lift: the technical name is a coronally mobilized flap. Some conditions must be met in the mouth for the technique to be viable and effective. For example, the interdental papillae (the triangles of gum between tooth and tooth) must be well preserved. In itself, the surgery consists of taking part of the gum, detaching it like an “envelope”, thanks to an incision, moving it and using it to fill the spaces that had been left empty.
  • Gum graft: also called mucogingival plastic surgery, it consists of taking a part of the mucosa of the palate to graft it into the missing area of ​​gum that we want to fill. Thus, the roots of the teeth are covered. Although it may seem somewhat complex when describing it, it is a simple and quick surgery. Its contraindication is the presence of periodontitis. Although the graft has different variants in its execution, scientific analyzes have not yet found that one is superior to another.
  • Periodontal surgery: severe cases with advanced periodontal disease, a lot of tissue deficiency and the possibility of tooth loss, must be addressed with complex surgeries. What is sought is to place filling material or large grafts that not only cover the missing gum, but also the bone that has degraded due to the inflammatory process.

Animal experiments are currently being developed to improve future treatment options for humans. Among these alternatives is the use of stem cells to regenerate lost gum, as well as the implantation of biosynthetic tissues.

Change of habits

Commitment on the part of the patient is essential for the success of the treatment of receding gums. Modifying behaviors that could favor withdrawal will prevent the problem from reappearing.

In this sense, it is good to learn and practice the correct brushing technique to avoid mistakes when brushing your teeth. With the dentist you can discuss the best type of brush to purchase and toothpastes that could reduce sensitivity.

Harmful habits should be stopped, such as smoking. And if you have a piercing in your mouth, you will have to remove it, since the trauma it generates will not allow adequate healing.

Can gingival retraction be prevented?

It is possible to take some measures to reduce the risk of gum recession. It will not always be possible, but if you apply the following tips, you could improve your chances of not suffering from this disorder:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Use a gentle brushing technique and floss daily. You can help yourself with an electric toothbrush, since some models are sold with pressure sensors to alert you when you are applying too much force.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups. Visits to the dentist will allow you to detect in time the conditions that lead to retraction. Then, respect the professional’s instructions for treatments.
  • If you need orthodontics, carefully evaluate which professional you will see. Try to find an office endorsed for the specialty and with experience.
  • Use mouth guards if you have bruxism.
  • Stop smoking if you have the habit.

If you already have a confirmed diagnosis, the objective will be to avoid recurrence. To do this, the measures indicated by the dentist are not optional. Respecting them to the letter will lead you to regain your health and smile with confidence again.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to Our

Join Our Mailing List and Receive the Latest Healthy Tips

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.