Receding gums: treatment and causes

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Worried about receding gums and tooth decay? Learn to smile with confidence with our expert tips!

By Claire Chamberlain

Receding gums, also known as gingival recession, can be a bit of a confidence killer. After all, showing off your big, cheesy grin can feel less appealing if you’re embarrassed by your gum health.

We asked the experts about gum recession and what you can do about it, to help restore your smile in no time.

Do I have receding gums?

‘Gum recession is where the gum tissue shrinks away from the tooth, exposing the root surface of the tooth,’ says James Goolnik, principal dentist at Bow Lane Dental Group.

Gum recession generally happens very gradually, so you might not notice it at first. However, left untreated, it can result in your teeth becoming damaged – or worse. ‘Unchecked, it can lead to tooth loss,’ warns Goolnik.

Signs and symptoms of gum recession

James Goolnik says common symptoms of receding gums include:

➡️ Bleeding after brushing or flossing

➡️ Red, swollen gums

➡️ Bad breath

➡️ Pain at the gum line

➡️ Sensitivity caused by exposed tooth roots

➡️ Loose teeth, because the damaged gums cannot hold them in place any longer

What causes gum recession?

There can be a number of reasons behind your receding gums, according to Goolnik, including:

★ Gum disease (also known as gingivitis), caused by poor dental hygiene

★ Hardened plaque build-up (also known as tartar)

★ Family history of gum (periodontal) disease

★ Brushing too aggressively over a lengthy period

★ Clenching or grinding your teeth

★ Misaligned teeth

★ Smoking

★ Diabetes

★ Certain medicines that cause a dry mouth (with inadequate saliva, the tissues in your mouth can become vulnerable to infections)

Can receding gums grow back?

Sadly, gum tissue is not like other tissue in your body (for example, your skin), and once it has worn away, it cannot regenerate on its own. However, mild gum recession can certainly be halted, and there are dental treatments available to help restore your gums in more extreme cases, such as grafts.

Treatments and remedies for receding gums

‘Mild cases of recession can be effectively treated by your dentist and hygienist,’ says Goolnik. ‘A course of deep cleaning – also known as tooth scaling and root planing – will get rid of plaque and tartar build-up below the gum line, so your gums can heal.

‘If the teeth or exposed root surfaces are sensitive, then you may need to switch to a sensitive toothpaste. For more long-term protection, your hygienist can apply various resins and fluoride varnishes,’ he adds.

Should I visit a gum specialist?

If your gum recession is more severe, further treatment may be required. ‘In advanced cases, you will need to see a periodontist (gum specialist),’ explains Goolnik. ‘They can regrow gums using grafts and other regeneration techniques. Grafting can be carried out using your own gum or artificial membranes, to help your gums repair.’

And of course, taking good care of your gums in the first place is always best. ‘The best treatment is prevention,’ says Goolnik. ‘Visit your dentist at least once a year, and have your teeth regularly scaled and polished with the dental hygienist.’

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