Most of us consider a trip to the dentist successful if we don’t have any new cavities. But as we waltz out the door—giddy about avoiding another filling—we may neglect to hear the dentist’s warnings about gum recession.
Gum recession is generally a slow process by which gum tissue starts to retract or pull away from the teeth, thereby exposing more of each affected tooth (and maybe even the tooth’s root). Receding gums are very common, especially as people age. Gums may recede for a number of reasons ranging from genetics to gum disease, the use of tobacco products, grinding or clenching the teeth, misalignment of the teeth, hormonal changes, using a toothbrush too aggressively, or otherwise not practicing proper oral hygiene habits.
No matter the cause, receding gums can lead to unpleasant or serious dental health issues—which is why it’s important to perk up your ears if your dentist says you’re showing signs of the condition. If you need some convincing, here are five reasons why you should care about receding gums.
We hope you enjoy this blog, but please remember, it should NOT take the place of advice and consultation from a qualified dental professional (like the team at Rifkin Dental!). Please don't use content on the internet to self-diagnose — see your dental professional for regular check-ups and if you suspect you might have a chronic or acute dental issue.
In the early stages of gum recession, it’s common to be unaware of the condition. But as the gums continue to recede, undesirable symptoms may start to crop up. These symptoms can include any or all of the following:
Bleeding after brushing and/or flossing
Inflammation, pain, and/or redness in the gums
Increased sensitivity to cold or hot foods and beverages
Aesthetic changes (as gums recede, teeth appear longer)
When the gums start to recede, they pull away from the teeth—which forms a teeny, tiny gap between the teeth and gums. This gap offers a welcoming habitat for all sorts of bacteria, including ones that can provoke disease.
Bacteria isn’t the only thing that can make its way into the gap between teeth and receding gums. So can tiny food particles and other microscopic debris. Because it’s difficult to clean out the gap, this buildup is often left unchecked—and that gives it an opportunity to harden into plaque and tartar. When that happens, it increases the risk of gum disease and other oral health issues.
When gums are allowed to recede unchecked, they may retract enough that the roots of the teeth become exposed. When this happens, several negative outcomes may occur.
Most notably, the risk of developing periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease, will increase. If periodontitis develops, it’s possible the bone structures and surrounding tissues that help support the teeth will become weaker. Over time, teeth may become loose or even fall out.
These outcomes should be avoidable if receding gums are treated early on, but they become more likely when the condition is ignored.
Early-stage gum recession can typically be managed with regular professional checkups and cleanings. But when gums are allowed to recede unchecked, treatment becomes more complicated. When the gaps between teeth and gums become too deep for even the professionals to clean or when bone loss has occurred, then the condition is likely to require surgical treatment.
The good news is that gum recession is manageable—especially if you take steps to manage it as soon as the condition starts to develop. Proper oral hygiene habits and regular trips to the dentist are two of your best lines of defense against the consequences of receding gums.