My Gums Are Receding; What Do I Do Now?

Receding gums are a condition in which your gums begin to recede away from the surface of your teeth, sometimes due to a loss in gum tissue. It’s almost always a consequence of long-term poor oral health, although people with diabetes and other immunological conditions are often at higher risk of receding gums and other periodontic disease. It can cause tooth mobility, tooth loss, and cavities below the gumline. 

My Gums are Receding, What Do I do Now?

If you’ve been diagnosed with receding gums, you’ll need to seek the proper treatment to help address the underlying causes. However, with the right treatment, you can reduce your risk of losing teeth and experiencing further oral health problems due to gingival recession.

Why Are My Gums Receding?

Receding gums are generally a progression of gingivitis, a very common type of inflammation of the gums. Many people experience gingivitis at some point in their lives, and improving your oral health habits can eliminate it. However, when left alone, gingivitis can eventually progress further, ultimately causing your gum line to recede. Interestingly, poor oral health isn’t the only potential cause. Brushing too aggressively can also contribute to gingival recession. 

Some of the factors that can contribute to receding gums include:

  • Long-term aggressive brushing

  • Long-term neglect of brushing

  • Tartar (hardened plaque) buildup

  • Hormonal changes (in women)

  • Diabetes mellitus

  • AIDS

  • Other autoimmune diseases

  • Long-term use of medications that cause xerostomia (dry mouth)

  • Fragile gum tissue caused by hereditary factors

  • Long-term use of dipping tobacco

  • Vitamin C deficiency

  • Tooth crowding

  • Bruxism

If you have receding gums, you’re not alone. Cross-sectional epidemiological studies have revealed that over 50% of the population have at least one site with gum recession of 1mm or more. These individuals may have good or poor oral hygiene, indicating that it occurs due to a variety of factors. In people over 65, 88% have gum recession.

Before your diagnosis, you probably noticed some of the common signs and symptoms associated with this condition: 

  • Loosened teeth

  • Tooth sensitivity or pain

  • Visible lengthening of teeth

  • Exposed roots of teeth

  • Changes in tooth color, due to exposed cementum

  • Wider spaces between teeth

  • Gum inflammation 

Receding Gums: Degrees of Severity

Receding gums are often divided into degrees of severity, using a system called the Miller classification.

  • Class I: Marginal tissue recession that doesn’t extend past the mucogingival junction, the area where the fragile cheeks and floor of the mouth meet the firmer, keratinized tissue around the teeth and palate.

  • Class II: Marginal tissue recession extends beyond the mucogingival junction. However, there is no loss of attachment to bone or soft tissue.

  • Class III: Includes periodontal (gum) attachment loss or malpositioning of the teeth.

  • Class IV: Severe bone or soft tissue loss in the interdental area, with or without severe malpositioning of teeth.

Seeking Treatment for Receding Gums

Unfortunately, receding gums are difficult to treat. In most cases, the best approach is to prevent this from occurring by treating the pre-existing gum disease that causes it. If your dentist has identified gum disease in its earlier stages, before gum recession is particularly advanced, there are several options for treatment.

  • Scaling & root planing. A periodontist or dentist can perform scaling and root planing. Scaling involves scraping tartar from the teeth, both above and below the gumline. Root planing eliminates rough areas on the roots of your teeth, where pathogenic oral bacteria are likely to accumulate.

  • Prescription mouth rinses. Prescription mouthwash for gingivitis contains chlorhexidine, an antimicrobial agent.

  • Antiseptic chips, which release chlorhexidine over time.

  • Antiobiotic gel applied to the gum pockets.

  • Antibiotic microspheres that release minocycline.

  • Enzyme suppressants. These oral medications reduce the body’s enzymatic responses that can break down gum tissue.

  • Flap surgery. This surgery can remove tartar and reduce the size of the periodontal pockets that occur when the gums recede.

  • Gum grafts. A gum graft involves taking a thin piece of tissue from elsewhere in your mouth, then attaching it where gum tissue has receded. After it heals, the previously exposed tooth root is covered again, reducing sensitivity and preventing tooth decay.

Caring for Your Gums After Treatment

If you undergo a gum graft surgery for gingival recession, the area may be sore for a while afterward. It’s important to refrain from smoking and alcohol directly after surgery, to improve gum healing. It’s also a good time to address any other underlying problems like jaw clenching, tooth grinding (bruxism), dietary issues, or oral hygeine issues that contribute to gum disease. 

Receding gums are treatable with surgery, and afterward, improved oral hygiene and self-care can help you prevent the problem from recurring. However, the best way to prevent advanced gingival recession is to seek treatment for less progressed forms of gum disease, before it worsens. This is part of why annual or biannual dental checkups are important at any age.

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