Common medical questions and answers through blogs and articles

What is Gum Recession?

One of the most common dental problems facing adults is gum recession.  Unbelievably, millions of Americans suffer with this malady.  Consider yourself lucky if you don’t have gum recession right now – so what steps can you take to prevent it in the future?  Below is information on gum recession as well as advice on how to keep gums healthy.

Gum recession

Gum recession is the loss of healthy pink gum tissue, also known as “gingival” tissue, that surrounds the teeth.  As gum recession progresses, it not only exposes the root surfaces of one tooth (or many teeth) making the teeth very sensitive, but it will continue to break down the surrounding gum tissues eventually causing tooth loss in very severe cases.

If a person has healthy gum tissue, that tissue encircles and firmly attaches itself to the necks of the teeth and the underlying bone, forming a barrier which is known as “attached gingiva”.  Healthy gum tissue is resistant to the continual battering of the gums by the abrasive action of foods done by eating, biting and chewing.  Similar tissue is found on the tongue surface and hard palate, or roof  of the mouth.  Gums take quite a beating during mastication, or the chewing of your food, that is, until you start to abuse your gums, then the tissue becomes inflamed and gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums set it.

By the way, gum recession does not discriminate – it is not a condition that correlates to your age and it may be hereditary to some extent.

Gum recession is hereditary

We don’t just resemble our relatives as to eye color and skin and hair type.  It is much more involved than just that simple explanation.  Not only do we end up with similar inherited physical characteristics like blue eyes and blonde hair, but we also have some characteristics that are genetically determined.  This genetic variation gives rise to different biological forms or types which are commonly referred to as “bio-types.”

As to gum tissue, there are two basic gum tissue biotypes:  thick and thin, with a great deal of variation in between.  Thus, both thick and thin gum tissues tend to respond differently to trauma and disease.   The people who have an inherited predisposition for thin gum (gingiva) tissue are more prone to gum recession than people predisposed to thick gum tissue.  But, your bio-type as it relates to your gum tissue, is merely one factor – there are other reasons which may serve to cause aggravation, or exacerbate existing biological gum issues.

So, you can’t trade in that body (and mouth) that you came into the world with, however, you can strive to avoid gum recession issues by adopting good dental habits like:

Dental don’ts

Too-vigorous or overzealous brushing of the teeth can cause gum recession.  Sure, brushing after each meal is a good dental practice, but,  brushing the teeth too hard on a regular basis will cause damage to teeth and gums.  One reason is that brushing too hard tends to splay the toothbrush bristles which causes abrasion, or breakdown of the gum tissue.  Soon thereafter, the gum tissue will begin to recede and the roots will be exposed and abraded.  Also, use a soft toothbrush please – you are not scrubbing the shower grout, just brushing your pearly whites!

Likewise, be gentle when flossing your teeth.  Flossing your teeth is an excellent way to eliminate particles between the teeth that the toothbrush cannot reach, and to avoid the build-up of plaque.  When you first begin a flossing regimen, your gums might be tender and bleed a little, but, after a few days, if the bleeding continues, stop flossing and consult with your dentist because perhaps you need a tutorial in proper flossing techniques.

Dental deviations such as malpositioned, misaligned teeth or prominent teeth can wreak havoc with your gums.  They will cause spreading or crowding of teeth that are not fully encased in supporting bone, which may lead to gum recession, then eventually lead to trauma of the gum tissue resulting in gum abrasion.

Bad habits.  Examples would be putting a bobby pin or nail between the teeth.

Badly fitting dental appliances, and these may run the gamut from orthodontic appliances such as braces, or even tongue bolts relative to tongue piercing, or improper-fitting removable partial dentures.  All of these items can impact gum tissues, eroding them and eventually causing recession.

There are fixes for gum recession

Your dentist can fit you with a bite guard or night guard to be worn every night if you grind or gnash your teeth while sleeping.  This plastic device is specially fitted to your mouth by taking a mold that replicates your bite, and will reduce stress on your teeth caused from your stress or anxieties once you drift off to sleep.

Consider an orthodontic regimen to realign your teeth into proper position, thus obviating gum tissue issues.

Gum grafting is a procedure used to increase the zone of attached gingiva or gum tissue at the gum line, or to increase the gum line of the tooth.  This would require surgery by a periodontist.

Maintaining regular dental hygienist visits and periodic checkups with your dentist will help to monitor any gum recession issues and nip potential problems in the bud.  If your dental practitioner and his team are proactive, you will help thwart gum recession, so why not set up a consultation with a cosmetic dentist right in Clearwater.

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