Gum Recession: Why It Happens and What to Do
There are parts of your body that grow back when lost, such as your hair and nails. If only your teeth and gums would do the same. Receding gums are categorised by the loss of gingival tissue at the base of your teeth, which reveals more of the tooth's surface area. This eventually exposes the tooth's roots, which can be more susceptible to infection when not shielded by a sufficient amount of gingival tissue. Gingival tissue that has receded will not grow back, so what can be done about gum recession?
A Slow Process
Gum recession is a slow and steady process and may have been underway for years before you would begin to experience any symptoms such as discomfort, a loosening of your teeth (tooth mobility), or a noticeable change to the length of your teeth (caused by the loss of gingival tissue that would ordinarily be covering the base of the tooth). Your dentist is likely to spot gum recession before it becomes problematic, although this is only possible if you attend your regular dental check-ups.
Periodontal disease is the most likely culprit when your gums begin to recede. This can be aggravated by certain behaviours, such as aggressive brushing, particularly when using a brush that's too rigid for your teeth. Some people have a natural predisposition to thin gums, and it can also be that the position of your teeth (dental overcrowding) has resulted in an inadequate amount of gingival tissue at the bases of certain teeth. In any event, your dentist will be able to assist you with gum recession.
Plaque and Tartar
In the event of periodontal disease, your dentist will perform a professional cleaning (which involves scaling, polishing and root planing). This will remove plaque and tartar both above and below the gum line. The removal of this bacterial biofilm will significantly slow or even halt your gum recession. In minor to moderate cases of gum recession, professional cleaning may be sufficient to solve the problem, although your dentist may apply a slow-release antibacterial gel to your gums for added certainty.
When a clinically significant amount of gum tissue has already been lost, professional cleaning will not be adequate by itself. It will still be performed; however, you're likely to require additional treatment. This treatment is gingival grafting, which is when a tiny amount of gingival tissue (taken from elsewhere in your mouth) is grafted onto your gums. It's as though your gums have grown back, but this is only because the necessary tissue has been manually placed onto the deficient site and has integrated with the existing tissues during the healing process.
Gum recession can ultimately lead to tooth loss and must be treated by your dentist as soon as you (or they) begin to suspect that your gingival tissues are receding.