Receding gums occur when the gum tissue shrinks or recedes to expose the lower portion of the tooth. Once the tooth is exposed it becomes more susceptible to damage and decay and there is an increased risk of gum disease. If receding gums are treated early, treatment is usually straightforward and very effective. However, if the condition is left untreated, it can become very serious and eventually the teeth will come loose and fall out.
Who suffers from receding gums?
Receding gums are commonly associated with older people, as their gum tissue tends to shrink. However, it is a condition that can affect people of all ages. Receding gums are fairly common but this condition is not normal and it should be treated as early as possible.
Symptoms and signs to look out for
Symptoms of receding gums usually develop gradually so it may take a while for you to even realise that there is something wrong. Symptoms to look out for in the early stages include increased sensitivity, especially when you drink hot or cold drinks, redness and tenderness in the gums and mild swelling. As the condition becomes more advanced, you may notice symptoms such as bleeding gums, gaps between the teeth, pus oozing from between the teeth, very swollen gums and exposed roots of the teeth; as the teeth become increasingly loose, they may start to fall out. Receding gums also cause the teeth to appear longer, as a greater portion of the tooth becomes visible.
What causes receding gums?
There are many possible causes of receding gums. These include bruxism (grinding the teeth), overzealous brushing, smoking, pressure from tongue piercings and poor oral hygiene.
What can be done?
Mild cases of receding gums can usually be treated. Your dentist will usually determine the cause and address this. If you have poor oral hygiene, you may be advised to have a cleaning treatment and your dentist will talk to you about your oral hygiene routine and offer advice about improving your oral hygiene routine. If you smoke, your dentist may advise you to stop smoking and provide you with information about getting help to quit. If you grind your teeth, you may be advised to wear a special guard during the night; this helps to prevent damage to the teeth and jaw joint.
In many cases, brushing too hard can cause receding gums. If this is the case, you should use a brush with softer bristles or an electric toothbrush – electric toothbrushes are designed to do all the work for you.
More severe cases of receding gums may require more intensive treatment. In some cases, gum tissue may be grafted from another part of the mouth to boost the area of receding tissue.
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