July 2020 Dental Newsletter
Gum recession can creep up on you. If you’re not paying close attention to your oral health, you may find yourself suddenly experiencing tooth sensitivity, or you may notice that your teeth look unusually long. There are many different causes of gum recession, but many of them contribute to each other, and all of them merit treatment. Although it is possible for gum tissue to be reattached, it cannot be regrown, so everybody needs to understand their risk factors and what options are available to people whose gum pockets have become loose.
Our teeth are held in place and protected by gingival tissue. The part of the gums that attaches to the teeth where their crowns end is called the gingival margin. It is secured tightly by structural fibers, but the portion of the gum tissue that surrounds the tooth root is more elastic. Dental crowns have an outer layer of enamel, which is a hard substance that reduces their sensitivity, but the outer layer of the roots is much thinner and made of a sticky substance called cementum. Although cementum helps keep the teeth in place, it does not provide as much protection against heat and cold, and if the gum tissue comes loose and forms a pocket around
the tooth roots, the teeth will be more sensitive.
Causes of Recession
When pockets open up below the gum line, they can be easily colonized by oral bacteria. The acid produced as a by-product of the bacteria’s respiration will cause further gum recession and decay of the tooth. The pocket may have opened up due to bacterial build-up in the first place, or it may have been created by mechanical damage. People are at risk for gum recession if they brush their teeth too hard, if they clench or grind their teeth, if they suffer a traumatic injury, or if their teeth are misaligned in a way that causes the gums to be subjected to excessive force when they bite. Some people are at heightened risk for gum recession due to genetic factors, and the hormones released by a woman’s body when she is pregnant weaken gum walls. Smokers and people with diabetes or rheumatic conditions are also at increased risk for gum disease and recession due to damage to their vascular tissues.
General dentists are able to provide treatment for mild gum pocket infections by performing deep cleanings. During this process, the patient will be numbed, the plaque and tartar below the gum line will be scraped out, and the tooth root will be smoothed. This will make it easier for the gingival margin to reattach itself.
Periodontists, who specialize in gum surgery, may recommend other forms of reattachment for larger pockets. This may include making an incision in the gum tissue and folding it back for a cleaning, or grafting some tissue from another part of the mouth onto the tooth root. Pinhole Surgical Technique may also be employed to stretch out receded gum tissue in preparation for reattaching it with strips of collagen.
Patients will need to maintain regular oral hygiene with a soft-bristled toothbrush and proper flossing technique to avoid a relapse of gum recession. Those who grind their teeth may need to get a night guard or practice stress-reduction techniques, and patients with misalignments may require orthodontic therapy. Preventing dry mouth is also vital to combating harmful oral bacteria. Lastly, people with dentures can also suffer gum recession, and the dentures need to be refitted occasionally to prevent them from irritating the gum tissue they rest on top of. Patients with dentures or implants also need to attend regular hygienic appointments so their dentist can determine whether their mouths may be changing shape due to jaw bone loss.