The gums are the so-called first line of defense against bacteria that try to attack the underlying bone structure of the teeth. The gums are structured to resist the forces of mastication (chewing). Normal gum shape permits the flow of food away from in between the teeth and along the gum line, so that food is forced away from the gingiva to the tongue and is, in turn forced between the teeth to be chewed. The gingiva has a sensory function as well. It is innervated with pain, touch and temperature receptors, which offer protection.
Receding gums can be a result of several factors. Typically the main causes of receding gums are 1) gum disease or gingivitis (The bacteria in plaque causes gum inflammation which results in the erosion of the gum tissue. 2) The other main cause is over-aggressive brushing techniques. This “wears away” the gum tissue.
Gum recession is very easy to diagnose. If you notice a receding of the gum line, you should make an appointment with us to confirm the diagnosis and start proper treatment. Although gum recession can be a slow progression, the end result can be quite serious and drastic. Gum recession can lead to tooth sensitivity, exposed root surfaces and eventually as the bacteria have greater access to the underlying structures of the teeth, bone loss and tooth loss.
Your teeth are covered with enamel – the hardest substance in your body. This helps to protect the tooth from damage by bacteria, acids and erosion. Root surfaces are not protected with hard enamel. The cementum that covers the root surfaces of a tooth is much softer than enamel. It is therefore more susceptible to the bacteria that cause tooth decay, and more prone to be worn away by aggressive brushing.
Sensitivity can be quite an issue for some people if the root surfaces are exposed. There are dentinal tubules that run from the outside of the tooth to the inner nerve. If due to gum recession, the tubules are exposed, sensitivity can be quite extreme.
The best treatment for receding gums is to prevent and curb gum recession. Thorough yet gentle brushing will remove plaque along the gum line without mechanically wearing away the gum tissue. Once lost, gum tissue will not grow back! Advanced cases of gum recession can sometimes be treated with tissue grafts, gingival flap surgery and possibly bone grafts. If there is too much recession, grafts and other surgeries will not help and eventually the tooth may be lost. Meticulous care of these areas will prolong the life of the tooth. The sooner receding gums are addressed the less invasive the treatment and the better the outcome.
Join us for our next blog for more information about the causes of sensitive teeth.