When you think about your dental health or having a healthy smile, you’re probably just thinking about the condition of your teeth. However, your gums are just as important in having a healthy smile, and receding gums can be a serious health concern.
If you struggle with receding gums, you may be asking, “Can receding gums be reversed,” but the answer is complicated. To help you understand your options and how to restore your smile, our Raleigh dentist is going to provide a closer look at what causes them, their symptoms, complications, and treatment options.
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What Are Receding Gums?
Your gums (gingivae) are the soft tissues that surround your teeth, holding them in place and protecting them. When your gums are healthy, they are tightly held to the tooth and alveolar bone, which is the bone that holds the tooth socket in the jaw bone. Food and debris is unable to get into the more vulnerable areas and the roots are protected from bacteria and plaque.
While this is a very common condition for many people, it is still serious. When the gums recede and draw back away from the teeth, the fragile roots, which are not protected by enamel, are exposed to bacteria. This makes decay, infection and tooth loss more likely.
What Causes Receding Gums?
Because gum tissue is soft, they are prone to damage, meaning there are multiple things that can lead to your gums receding, including:
- Certain medications
- Oral infection or decay
- Brushing teeth too hard or using a toothbrush that with hard bristles
- Teeth grinding
- Crooked teeth
- Lip or tongue piercings
- Hormonal changes, especially pregnancy and menopause
- Drug abuse
- Tobacco use
- Trauma to the mouth
- Poor diet or nutritional deficiency
- Poor dental care
Because there are so many factors that play a role in the health of your gums, it’s not surprising that receding gums affect such a large portion of the population and is something we see at our Raleigh dental office fairly frequently.
Symptoms of Receding Gums
Your gums don’t generally draw back or recede overnight. It’s generally a very slow process, which is why most people don’t even realize it’s happening until the problem is more severe. This is especially true if they don’t get regular dental checkups.
At the early stages, symptoms of receding gums include:
- Teeth that appear longer or spaces between teeth seem pronounced
- Sensitivity to hot and cold foods and liquids (even cold air can be painful!)
- Feeling a notch or slight rough area on the bottom or the tooth – this is a sign of where the gum used to be and has pulled away. Usually you can feel it with your finger.
As gum recession grows more severe, periodontitis, or gum disease, may occur which has the following symptoms:
- Swollen or tender gums
- Gums that are bright red or purple in color
- Bad taste in your mouth or bad breath
- Loose teeth or a change in your bite
Preventing Gum Recession
If your gums are currently healthy with no signs of recession, that’s great! You can maintain the health of your gums and avoid them receding with these actions:
- Stop smoking or using tobacco products immediately
- Use a soft-bristled brush to brush your teeth twice a day
- Visit your Raleigh dentist for regular dental checkups
- Remove tongue or lip piercings
- Discuss tooth grinding (bruxism) with your dentist and discuss a mouthguard or other treatment options.
- Discuss any risk factors you may have, such as diabetes or genetics, with your dentist.
How to Treat Receding Gums
If you are concerned about your gums, the good news is that there are treatment options. The first option in cases of very minimal gumline recession is to follow the preventative steps listed above. Simply improving your dental hygiene can play an important role.
There are two restorative dentistry treatment options for more severe receding gums:
Gum Tissue Grafts
A gum graft, also called a gingival graft is a minor surgical procedure performed by a periodontist ( a dentist who specializes in gum health). The periodontist removes healthy gum tissue, often from the roof of your mouth, and attaches it to areas where the gums have receded.
While this is generally effective, there can be discomfort following the procedure. For a week or two following a graft procedure, you should eat soft, room-temperature or cold foods and avoid brushing around the graft site to avoid opening up the wound. Additional concerns include that the graft may not “take” to the site and will have to be redone.
Pinhole Gum Rejuvenation
An incision-free, less invasive alternative to gum grafting is a new technique we do at our Raleigh dental office called pinhole gum surgery, or pinhole gum rejuvenation. Invented by Dr. John Chao, this modern treatment for receding gums is done through small pinholes made just above areas where the gums have pulled away where we can correct and ease the gums back into place. Using collagen, we ensure the treatment stays in place.
With a simple local anesthetic, our dentist can quickly perform the procedure, and because there is no incision or suturing necessary, recovery is much faster (generally around 24 hours compared to a week). Additionally, pinhole gum surgery doesn’t have any risk of open wounds, minimizing the risk of infection and leading to an improved patient outcome.
Contact Us to Reverse Receding Gums
Your gums are an essential part of having a healthy smile, and receding gums can put you at risk for severe tooth decay and gum disease. Fortunately, our modern restorative dentistry solutions allow us to help our patients restore and reverse receding gums. Call us today or fill out the form below to schedule a gum rejuvenation consultation!