Receded Gums – Symptoms & Causes

Posted on Nov 22, 2015 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Each tooth is arched by gum tissue. When the gums pull away from the teeth, it exposes darker portions of the tooth , which are actually tooth roots sections. Being without the protective layer of gum tissue over these areas leaves the roots exposed to hot, cold or the bristles of a tooth brush.

While the darker segments of teeth detract from the appearance of a smile, they are also highly sensitive. Drinking hot coffee, eating ice cream or brushing across these areas can send a quick jolt of pain. Although some toothpastes are available to help with this sensitivity, there is a reason to determine what is contributing to recession so the process can be halted.

The process of gum recession occurs gradually. Many people may not notice it until they have a painful sensation, which can be a jolt of pain from hot or cold or an ache that is mistaken for pain from a cavity. Causes for gum recession include:
• Periodontal (gum) disease: When bacteria build up on teeth at the gum line, healthy gums are weakened and lose their grip on teeth. As gum disease continues, the tissues and supporting bone are literally eaten away by oral bacteria. Gum disease is also the leading cause of adult tooth loss.
• Rigorous tooth brushing: Using a tooth brush with hard bristles or being too zealous when brushing can wear down enamel as well as gum tissue. Also, abrasive substances such as baking soda are too gritty for teeth and can wear down gum tissues.
• Inadequate oral hygiene: Without thorough and regular brushing and flossing, oral bacteria accumulate. This results in a build up of plaque, which hardens into calculus. Plaque is a cement-like substance made up of an overload of oral bacteria and can only be removed by a dental professional. Whether plaque or calculus, these are colonies of bacteria that feed on gum tissues.
• Smoking: A dry mouth is when saliva flow is insufficient to effectively wash bacteria from the mouth. The chemicals in tobacco are terribly drying to oral tissues, which creates an ideal environment for the formation of plaque. Plaque is a build up of oral bacteria that destroys gum tissue and contributes to recession.
• Grinding & clenching teeth: When you clench or grind your teeth during sleep, the force that is placed on teeth can be so strong that they begin to tilt out of  position. As this continues, the gums eventually pull away from teeth.
• Hormonal changes: Pregnancy, menopause and puberty can cause changes in hormone levels. These hormonal fluctuations can cause gums to feel tender and be more vulnerable to recession.
• Misaligned teeth: When not properly aligned, teeth endure added force to bite and chew. This can also place added strain to the TMJ (jaw joints), gums and bone that supports tooth roots. This can lead to gum recession.

When dark areas of a tooth are visible, it detracts from a smile and makes the tooth more susceptible to decay or gum disease. For comfort, appearance and health of the tooth, repairing the problem before costly damage occurs is the best move.

As a Periodontal Specialist, I am specially-trained in gum recontouring procedures that repair recession comfortably and quickly. However, it is important to repair recession before it becomes several. Waiting may require more-extensive tissue grafting that may increase treatment time and expense.

Call 828-274-9440 to learn more.

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