Your gums play an important role in your oral health, keeping your teeth in place and protecting them from infection. Gum recession is a common dental problem that occurs when the gum tissue around your teeth wears away. The roots become exposed, making them vulnerable to soreness and decay. Although it can be stressful and uncomfortable, know that there are options to stop and even reverse the pain and damage of gum recession.
To start, let’s consider the common causes of gum recession as well as the identifying symptoms.
Some of the leading causes, which may occur alone or together, include:
- Poor dental hygiene, including improper brushing and flossing technique
- Hormonal changes
- Misaligned teeth or bite
- Skipping your biannual check-ups and cleanings
Although gum recession can occur with no noticeable symptoms, the most common symptom is a change in the shape or color of your gums. You may even notice that your gums don’t cover the entire tooth surface, leading to some sensitivity when eating or drinking. Other symptoms include:
- A lower-than-usual gum line
- Teeth appearing longer than before
- A change in your bite fit
- Frequent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
- Pockets in between the teeth and gums
- Bleeding gums
- Teeth that feel wiggly
Gum recession is often diagnosed at a biannual dental exam.
During your appointment, your dentist will measure the depth of the pockets around the teeth, check for inflammation and/or bleeding, and examine your gum line for any changes in position. He may also check for tooth sensitivity or looseness. To get a better view of the bone and tooth structure, he may also take X-rays. If he’s concerned about infection, he may take a small tissue sample for laboratory analysis.
Remember: It’s important to detect and treat this issue as early as possible to prevent further damage.
When it comes to treatment options, you should work with your dentist to develop a personalized plan based on the cause(s) and symptoms that you’re experiencing.
Depending on the severity of your disorder, there are non-surgical and surgical treatment options. Non-surgical treatment options include:
- Scaling and root planing: During this deep cleaning procedure, plaque and tartar build-up along the gum line is removed. It may need to be completed over multiple visits to the dentist or periodontist.
- Mouth rinse: A rinse like chlorhexidine gluconate may prevent infection by killing the harmful bacteria that causes gum recession. It may also keep away plaque build-up by forming a protective layer on the teeth and gums.
- Antibiotics: Another way to fight potential infection is with antibiotics, which can be taken orally or applied to the infected area.
- Dental bonding: During this procedure, a tooth-colored resin material is applied to the affected tooth. It is sculpted and shaped to match the surrounding teeth and then hardened with a special light.
- Oral irrigation: Here, a special device flushes out plaque and bacteria from the pockets between the teeth and gums.
If needed, gum grafting is a surgical option used to treat gum recession. This procedure covers the exposed roots to reduce sensitivity and improve the appearance of the teeth and gums. A small piece of tissue, often from the roof of your mouth, is placed over the area with recession and then secured with sutures. Following the treatment, it is important to follow a post-operative care routine, which may include taking antibiotics, avoiding hard foods, and using good at-home dental practices. Most patients can return to normal activities within a few days.
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