As you’re brushing your teeth, you might notice more sensitivity near your gum line. Or when you get a family picture printed for your wall, you might notice that your teeth appear longer than normal. These are the first signs of receding gums.
A number of things can contribute to gum recession, but early intervention by a dentist is important to help prevent the problem from progressing to the point of danger. Severe gum recession can sometimes require surgery to correct, and it can lead to other dental health troubles, so it’s better to find out why your gums are struggling early on and nip the problem in the bud.
Here are some common causes of gum recession and what you can do to prevent them.
Brushing Too Aggressively
Do you feel like you really have to dig in in order to get your teeth feeling clean? Pushing hard when you brush doesn’t clean your teeth better; it only makes your gums angry. They become irritated and inflamed, and when they heal, they pull back a little tighter than they did before.
When you repeat this process over days and days of brushing, your gums migrate higher and higher up the tooth, eventually exposing the softer, less protected portions of your teeth. That’s what causes the sensitivity when you brush, drink cold water, or eat sweets.
Instead of pushing hard or using a harsh brush, choose a gentle, extra soft brush. Use circular or short, angled strokes instead of a back and forth motion, and meet the gums at an angle instead of brushing straight across them.
If you have a hard time holding back the force, it might be a good idea to use an electric brush that you simple move to each part of your mouth — no pressure required.
Smoking and Other Tobacco Use
Tobacco is one of the leading causes of periodontal disease or gum disease. Gum disease is one of the causes of receding gums. When you have even mild gum disease, your gums are infected with bacteria that cause inflammation. Inflammation leads to recession, and recession puts your teeth at higher risk for decay and eventual tooth loss.
If you are struggling with an addiction to any tobacco product, speak with your doctor and your dentist about alternatives that can help you quit. As you work on beating the addiction, you should be extra vigilant in caring for your teeth and gums with brushing, flossing, and mouthwash.
Poor Tooth Alignment
Braces aren’t just for looks — they can help reduce the stress on your gums. Poor tooth alignment can cause gum recession because some teeth bear more of the burden of chewing than others. Also, some teeth are more difficult to clean, so the gums around these hard-to-reach areas might be unintentionally neglected.
Your dentist can help you know if crowded or unevenly spaced teeth contribute to gum recession. It’s likely that some portions of the gums will look normal, but the gums in trouble areas will show some signs of recession. It’s common to see receding gums on the upper canines, for example, when teeth are under strain from misalignment.
Clenching and Grinding
Clenching and grinding your teeth do not just harm your teeth — your gums absorb a lot of the impact from these habits, and as a result, they begin to pull back.
If you know that you have trouble with unconsciously clenching your teeth, work on relaxing your mouth. Catch yourself in the moment and breathe deeply to keep your teeth from meeting. The only time your teeth should meet together with force is when you are biting or chewing your food.
For grinding, your dentist can give you a mouthguard to protect your teeth at night and reduce the stress on your gums. If you grind your teeth from anger or nervousness, practice another outlet, like twisting some paper or clenching your hands tightly and then releasing them.
Skipping the Floss
Poor dental hygiene is another sad reason for gum recession, and the most commonly skipped item is flossing. Some people avoid flossing because they don’t have time, because they think it hurts, or because it’s challenging to reach in the back of their mouth. Some may lack dexterity.
Your dentist can help you find a solution. You might:
- Change floss. Some flosses are better for close-set teeth. Some floss might shred or split, leading you to give up. Try some floss samples to find a better match.
- Persist. If your gums are already red and sore, flossing will hurt a bit at first, but continuing to skip will only make the problem worse.
- Use a water flosser or floss pick. Water flossers might be a good alternative for people who have trouble maneuvering string, or floss picks with string can be useful, especially for children.
Never give up on flossing your teeth. Not only will you prevent between-teeth decay, but your gums will stay healthy as a result of daily flossing.
For more information on correcting and treating gum recession, contact us at Valley Oak Dental Group Inc.