Gum recession can be unsightly, uncomfortable, and detrimental to your oral health. Caused by genetics, aging, illness, tobacco use, overzealous brushing, and other things, gum recession is characterized by your gums pulling back from teeth, exposing more of the tooth surface and even the roots of your teeth.
Unfortunately, this problem will not correct itself, and in the meantime, you could face a number of oral health concerns. In some cases, patients elect to treat gum recession for purely cosmetic reasons, but there are bigger concerns than appearance if your gum recession is not addressed, such as physical discomfort, gum disease, and tooth decay.
If you fail to treat gum recession in a timely manner, it could end up shortening the life of your teeth. How does this happen and what can you do to prevent it? Here are a few things you should know about gum recession and the impact it could have on your teeth.
For the most part, the exposed surfaces of your teeth are protected by a hard, outer shell of enamel, but your gums help to protect the roots of your teeth. When your gums start to recede, you may begin to notice that your teeth are more sensitive, particularly when they come in contact with hot or cold liquids or air. This can impact your ability to consume foods and beverages you love. In some cases, this can be prevented.
When you brush properly (i.e. not too hard), you keep up with regular dental hygiene and professional checkups for cleaning, and you avoid harmful substances like tobacco products, you can do a lot to prevent gum recession, but in some cases, you have no control. If you start to notice increased sensitivity and you think gum recession is to blame, the best thing you can do is see your dental professional immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Exposure to Bacteria
When your gums recede and expose the roots of your teeth, one of the biggest problems you face is the incursion of bacteria. Your gums are part of the structure that supports your teeth, and when they are healthy and properly positioned, they act like a seal that helps to stop bacteria from reaching the roots.
When bacteria begin to populate below the gum line, between teeth, and down to the roots, it can be extremely difficult to clean, even if you brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash regularly. This buildup can lead to the formation of plaque and tartar that irritate gums further and ultimately result in serious oral health concerns like gum disease and tooth decay.
The best reason to treat gum recession post haste is to avoid the serious and potentially permanent harm caused by bacteria, plaque, and tartar buildup. When these culprits invade, they can not only irritate and infect gum tissue, causing redness, swelling, pain, and more, but they can also invade the tooth itself, leading to decay and the growth of cavities.
Unfortunately, it can get much worse if left untreated. Over time, periodontitis can set in, seriously compromising the integrity of your teeth and your overall oral health. At this point, you could be at risk for tooth loss and even health issues that extend beyond your mouth. You might also be at risk for abscesses, or pockets of infection that could spread to the jaw and even into your bloodstream, infecting other areas of the body.
This is, of course, the worst-case scenario, and it is unlikely to occur unless you forego treatment for months or even years. Still, you don’t ever want to assume that gum recession isn’t serious. Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to avoid further harm.
Treating Gum Recession
There is only one real way to treat gum recession, and that’s through a grafting process. A connective tissue graft, whereby subepithelial connective tissue is taken from a flap cut into the roof of your mouth and attached to gums to cover exposed tooth surface, is the most common procedure. A free gingival graft uses tissue taken directly from the roof of the mouth, instead of the area under the skin.
Then there is a pedicle graft, where excess gum tissue is cut, stretched, and sewn into place to cover the roots of teeth. Your dentist will explain your options and recommend the best treatment to address gum recession, protect roots, and extend the life of your teeth.