Why are my gums receding?

Gum recession is one of the most common dental conditions and yet it is largely preventable. When the gums recede, the teeth appear longer and the roots of the teeth become exposed. Sadly for most people this can contribute to experiencing sensitivity when having something cold to eat or drink, or when getting dental work done. In these situations you may find some relief from using a sensitive toothpaste or having professional desensitizer applied to your teeth/gums by a dental professional. Many patients ask us if we can make the gums grow back up again and unfortunately gums can not grow back again once they have receded. However, you can prevent the gums from receding further and causing more damage. Some people have a misconception that gum recession just happens with age and it’s something they just have to live with. I can tell you I have many wonderful local patients in their 80’s and 90’s who have very healthy gums with little gum recession. So age is not a major contributing factor and you can do things to also have healthy gums and bones as you age. If you do nothing, however, there is a high chance the gums will continue to recede further down the roots of your teeth, together with the bone that lies underneath. This, in turn, leads onto teeth getting lose and early tooth loss.

Ways to prevent gum recession:

  1. Gentle Brushing
  2. Regular Dental Hygiene Appointments  
  3. Investigate & manage possible teeth clenching/grinding

Gentle Brushing

Always remember that brushing harder does not clean your teeth better! Using a medium or a firm brush may feel like it’s cleaning your teeth better, but it is most likely causing your gums to recede. Gums need gentle care with a soft toothbrush and correct brushing technique. They are a biological tissue, not dirty bathroom tiles or dirty dishes. Putting too much force on them causes them to recede permanently. Using an electric toothbrush is fine too because they usually have soft bristles, however you must watch you are not pressing too hard while you brush. Only apply gentle pressure and if unsure look out for an electric toothbrush that has a pressure sensor, which lights up and warns you if you are pressing too hard. You can buy brushes like these at places like chemist warehouse, pharmacies, and supermarkets.

Regular Dental Hygiene Appointments

One of the other major reasons gums recede is due to having bacteria (plaque and calculus) nesting around them. Once the bacteria has hardened up and become calcified (calculus) you can no longer brush it off safely at home. Dental hygienists are specifically trained in carefully removing this bacteria and treating gum problems. Dentists can do this too but they often have other procedures they prefer instead, so tend to rush this procedure at most practices. Dental hygienists at the Balnarring Dental Centre allocate 60min to you for this procedure to ensure they are thorough and gentle. They will measure your gums and take clinical photos to track your gum levels. Most importantly, if you are scared of this procedure due to experiencing sensitivity with ‘scale and cleans’ in the past just let them know as they have special tools & techniques to help with this that are completely painless. By having bacteria removed from around the gums frequently e.g 3-6 monthly, you give your gums the best chance to stay healthy, preventing gum recession, gum disease and loss of bone. If you are wondering about those magnificent patients I told you about in their 80’s and 90’s, this is what they do to keep their gums healthy & it clearly worked for them.

Investigate & Manage Possible Teeth Clenching/Grinding

A habit such as teeth clenching or teeth grinding is less frequently spoken about when it comes to gum recession. However, it is a common contributing factor because this habit puts pressure on the teeth, which travels down to the roots of the teeth where the gums sit. It’s a bit like when you’re about to have a fall and you put your arm out as you hit the floor. The damage is often caused to the shoulder not the hand. Same principles apply with teeth clenching/grinding where the damage is caused further down at the gumline. Most people struggle to control this habit on their own, particularly if it happens at night. Many people are unaware they even have this habit. If you’re not sure or are suspicious you may be clenching/grinding your teeth speak to the dentists or dental hygienists at the Balnarring Dental Centre about it at your next checkup. They usually check for signs of this anyway. It may save your gums and teeth in the long-run. If you are a new patient, we would be happy to welcome you and even do a complimentary consultation for our local community members to check your jaws and facial muscles for teeth clenching/grinding. It’s quick, simple and painless.

I hope these three simple steps to prevent gum recession were helpful and if you have any questions please feel free to call our clinic in Balnarring on ph: 5983 5348 or visit our website www.balnarringdentist.com.au

Warm Regards,

Darina Nirmalann (Principal Dental Hygienist at the Balnarring Dental Centre)