PEOPLE USED TO THINK that gum recession was an inevitability of getting older, but that’s not necessarily true. What is gum recession? It’s when the edge of the gum tissue recedes from around the crown of the tooth, exposing more and more of the root. We often think of it as age-related because it’s typically such a gradual problem that it takes years or even decades to become noticeable, but gum recession can start as early as childhood. In many cases, it can also be prevented.
For an unlucky few, gum recession is caused by genetics. They may have more fragile gum tissue than average or weaker jaw bones that can’t support enough gingiva to keep the roots of the teeth fully covered. However, there isn’t a gene for automatic gum recession, so even people with genetic risk factors can do a lot to keep their gums healthy and minimize recession.
A major cause of gum recession is actually overbrushing. If your toothbrush tends to end up with the bristles bent outwards after a while, you might be brushing too hard, and it can do a lot of damage to both the gum tissue and tooth enamel over time. Our gums and teeth are not built to stand up to frequent, harsh scouring.
That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for brushing twice a day! Aim for a Goldilocks approach. Do brush twice daily, but also make sure to use a toothbrush with soft bristles and only apply gentle pressure when you brush. The same goes for flossing. Definitely floss daily, but be gentle on those gums!
Bruxism, or chronic teeth-grinding, leads to a wide array of oral health problems, from the damage to the teeth themselves to increasing the risk of gum recession. Grinding puts a lot of strain on the gums, so they may begin to recede over time. Bruxism can be a difficult habit to break, especially if it happens at night. The good news is that you don’t have to fight a grinding habit alone. The dentist can help!
Gingivitis and more advanced forms of gum disease can actually destroy the supporting gum tissue and bone around the roots of our teeth. This is what makes gum disease the main cause of gum recession. To keep the gums healthy, a daily oral hygiene routine is critical, but so are regular professional cleanings at a dental practice. Only the pros can remove plaque that has hardened into tartar, and the longer tartar is allowed to remain, the more it will irritate the gums.
It’s uncommon, but kids aren’t immune to gum recession just because they’re young. The same causes can affect gum tissue in kids as in adults: overbrushing, poor oral hygiene, and bruxism. Another cause is oral injury. The best treatment for kids as well as adults is prevention by maintaining good oral health habits.
The hygienist will check your gum pockets for signs of inflammation or recession at regular dental appointments, so make sure to schedule those twice a year! If you have any questions about gum recession, how to prevent it, and how it can be treated, just ask. We want all of our patients to have the information and tools they need to maintain healthy gums.